My American Prospect Blog and Article on the VHA Prompts Jeff Miller Response

Just wanted to let you know that my article and blogpost on the VHA in The American Prospect has prompted a response from Congressman Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.  Here is the article that reported on that in Government Executive.

Troubled VA Attracts Some Defenders, Prompting Lawmaker Rebuttal

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said VA's problems are not as widespread as they might appear. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said VA’s problems are not as widespread as they might appear. Charlie Neibergall / AP

Though the Veterans Affairs Department indeed has its struggles, its problems with misreported patient wait times and construction overruns have “not been as widespread as [they have] been made out to be.”

That’s according to former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, speaking Friday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Surveys have shown that veterans report high-quality treatment from VA hospitals, Clinton noted, according to reporting from The Hill. “Now nobody would believe … Continue reading

New Blogpost on VHA Performance

The American Prospect just posted this on their blog.

Report: VA Outperforms Private Sector on Key Measures

A little-noticed report by a trio of leading research groups found the Veterans Health Administration outperforms private sector health providers on several key measures.

(Photo: AP/Molly Riley)

Witnesses from the Department of Veterans Affairs testify on Capitol Hill this month.

A little-noticed recent report by three leading research groups found that on critical measures, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) consistently performs as well as and often better than private sector health-care providers. The VHA does this with patients who are sicker, older, and poorer than many of their counterparts seen in the private sector.

Among the key findings of the report, conducted by the consulting firm Grant, Thornton & McKinsey Company and by two nonprofit research companies—the RAND Corp and the MITRE Corporation—were that:

•   Postoperative morbidity was lower for VA patients compared with non-veterans receiving non-VA care.

•   Inpatient care was more or as effective in VA as in non-VA hospitals.

•   VA hospitals were more likely to follow best practices in the use of central … Continue reading

It Could Be a Happier Veterans Day

This was just published in the Boston Globe

2014-11-06T211409Z_1436321354_GM1EAB70EB701_RTRMADP_3_USA-CONGRESS  Guarantee Veterans the benefits they deserve

By Suzanne Gordon November 10, 2015

This Veterans Day, members of Congress will make the usual speeches honoring former service members. But behind this patriotic rhetoric, Republicans on Capitol Hill (with the help of some Democrats) are working to privatize the Veterans Health Administration — undermining, rather than strengthening, veterans health care. Congress has also failed to expand VHA coverage to 300,000 or more US veterans.

Many of these vets suffer from mental or physical illnesses arising from their military service. Some are homeless. Yet they are ineligible for VHA benefits because, when they separated from military service, the Department of Defense assigned them a “discharge characterization” that may exclude them from access to the excellent mental health care, primary or specialty health care, or homeless resources the VHA offers.

In civilian life, a worker who makes a mistake on the job and gets fired doesn’t lose eligibility for workers compensation benefits or health care granted to victims of job-related illnesses or injuries. Coverage continues despite changes in employment status. This is not how it works in … Continue reading

Unfriendly Fire

Unfriendly Fire

Despite ideological attacks and under-funding, the Veterans Health Administration is a model public system.

Suzanne Gordon

This article appears in the Fall 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here.

The other day, as part of my current research on patient care at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), I tagged along with an occupational therapist named Heather Freitag. She works for the VHA’s Home Based Primary Care Program (HBPC) in San Francisco, and was making her first visit to a 79-year-old Korean War veteran suffering from dementia.

The man’s wife, only five years younger, was clearly overwhelmed by the burden of caring for him by herself while dealing with her own mounting health problems. For more than an hour, Freitag scrutinized every niche and cranny of their tidy bungalow in the Excelsior district of the city.

The VHA caregiver quickly discovered that her patient’s narrow, sagging bed made it too difficult for his wife to turn him. In his frail condition, the two-inch lip around their shower stall had … Continue reading

New Article on VHA in American Prospect

vha_mat_croppedI am very excited to let people know that my new article — Unfriendly Fire: Despite ideological attacks and under-funding, the Veterans Health Administration is a model public system.on the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is out in the wonderful public policy magazine The American Prospect.  I urge everyone to read it — as well as to read the magazine, if you don’t already.  You can find it at

Please also send in your comments to the magazine.