A VA study found that Veterans have better post-surgery outcomes than patients from private hospitals. Specifically, those who have non-cardiac surgery at VA hospitals are less likely to die 30 days later than patients treated in private hospitals.

Published in JAMA Surgery, the study found VA surgery patients had a 40% lower adjusted risk of 30-day mortality than in the private sector. It compared data from more than 4.6 million operations from Jan. 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2018.

The results “challenge the assumption that shifting care to the private sector can improve timeliness of surgical care without diminishing its quality,” according to the study.

These untested assumptions may have contributed to increasing Veteran access to private sector physicians and services through the Choice and MISSION acts, which give Veterans access to subsidized health care in the private sector.

Timeliness is only one aspect of high-value care

“If the private sector can provide equally high-quality care in a more timely fashion, that’s great,” said Dr. Paula K. Shireman, a study co-author from South Texas VA. “But timeliness is only one aspect of high-value care. The outcomes need to be good as well. These data put the burden of proof on those who assert that the private sector is as good or better than VA for providing surgical services and ensuring optimal surgical outcomes for Veterans.”

For frail and very frail patients, the risk of death within 30 days of surgery was even lower, “Suggesting that VA might be particularly adept at caring for such higher risk patients who represent a larger proportion of the patients treated by VA,” said another study co-author, Dr. Shipra Arya, from Palo Alto VA.

Integrated networks provide significant value to patients

VA is also uniquely positioned to care for Veterans’ additional needs, taking mental health, addiction treatment, transportation and housing into consideration when providing surgical care.

“VA’s wraparound services and integrated care networks provide significant value to my patients,” said senior author Dr. Daniel E. Hall, Pittsburgh VA surgeon and core investigator with VA’s Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion. “That might go a long way to explaining these findings.”

About Pittsburgh VA

Pittsburgh VA is one of the largest and most progressive VA health care systems in the nation. More than 4,000 employees serve nearly 80,000 Veterans every year, providing a range of services from complex transplant medicine to routine primary care. VAPHS is a leader in virtual care delivery through telehealth technology; a center of research and learning with 130 research investigators and $14.8 million in funding. We are a provider of state-of-the-art health care training to some 1,500 student trainees annually. Stay up to date at pittsburgh.va.gov, Facebook and Twitter.

By Kimberly Graham is a visual information specialist for the Pittsburgh VA

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Published on Jan. 27, 2022

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  1. clay February 21, 2022 at 8:21 am

    I have been coming to the VA for the past six years to get them to help me with a physical medical problem. They have tried to exhaust every little thing that they can dream up instead of actually looking where I told them to in the first damn place. They have even given me surgery to correct a problem that didn’t even exist, and which has now caused me more problems. They have now destroyed my mental state over the whole thing. I don’t want to kill myself but they have driven me to this point. All I wanted was some help with that physical problem and they have made things unbearable.

  2. GEORE February 4, 2022 at 2:37 pm

    I am a Vietnam Veteran, I did two tours to Vietnam, came home to no thanks from my country. I am 71 years old, and yes I do have Medicare like most old folk do.
    My income is $ 22,620.00 year– medicare and drugs $5000.00 per year, $17620.00 to live on now that is sure a lot of money.
    I have been in the Veterans Administration System since 2010
    From Dallas, Odessa, Tomball and Houston VA where did I go wrong at? I ask the VA for help and where has it got me.
    Let start off with “Dallas VA Hospital” they were good at running test and diagnosis problems but treat them was something else. (I had a Leg Ulcer I could never get them to address it sure they wrote it down on paper but never treat it.)
    “Odessa VA Clinic” ( there again I could never get them to address the Leg Ulcer, But had a Doctor’s more worried about if he wanted to work for the VA and a month later he was not there and he forget to order prescription I was told from that point on I had to that care of myself because the VA was not going to it for me.)
    Big Spring VA Hospital- I was so sick I went to the Odessa VA Clinic who told me I needed to go to a Hospital, Not having no insurance at that time I drove 75 miles to Big Spring VA Hospital emergency room where they send me home without doing nothing and two days later I end up in a Hospital in Odessa Hospital for 7 days for AFib plus this was the first time my Leg Ulcer had ever been address. Let me tell you this was not at VA expense.
    Tomball Clinic, I had a Doctor’s there who refuse to give me Prescriptions for Blood Thinner and for my COPD, was told I had to go Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to see Specialties in order to get my prescriptions for XARLTO Which I have done. I even had a Doctor in the Pulmonary Clinic at Medical Center told me, “He who do not help himself well not get service from the VA.” I am still here and don’t know where he is at. I had a cold sore that won’t heel VA Doctor told me it just a cold sore, I turn to a Doctor outside the VA and it turn out to be cancer.
    I do have say the VA do have a few Great Doctor and they know who they are!
    Over the last year and half since this pandemic with the VA close down I have got help from outside Doctor’s of the VA.
    I have learn not to put all my eggs in one basket, that the reason I am still a live today.
    During the pandemic, which the VA clinic Tomball was close and the Houston VA only seeing emergency cases I had to turn outside the VA for help, so now that I had a appointment with a Specialties at the VA and share test information with them (not costing the VA one cent) now this Specialties has wrote since patient seeing pvt Cardiology-may not need to see as well, there one thing that they did not say in the notes that during this time I had a non heeling leg ulcer for 5 months and that was the reason for all the test. ( This is something that the VA would never address, been there.)
    So the big question is: Blood Thinner,
    Tomball Clinic whated to put me on Coumadin (Warfarin) becould cost less than the other. (blood test ever month.)
    VA Houston- get Xarelto which I have been on for 6 years now or do with out.

    (There is one thing I can sure tell you, There is a Light at the end of the tunnel.) Been there.
    Now there is just one thing that I do not understand , when you see a VA Doctor that he or she write down everything you say like you were a kindergartner and put in your file and it always one sided ! I did ask a VA Doctor about that and she was not very understanding.
    Care Act: Been there too, was farm out because VA Doctor;s in Houston was to busy to see me so was farm out to a outside Doctor of the VA, VA paid for the Doctor but I had to paid for the treatment which cost me over $200.00 so we don’t do the Care Act thing anymore.
    No one should ever have to wait 3 months to see a Doctor;s or treat by one at the VA.
    So tell me how I am trust a system like this with my life.
    I am always ask by the VA, do I trust them well the answer is No I would death by now. Trust is a two way street.
    In 2019, I had a COPD attack and had a Doctor who wanted to put on Hospice Care and those were the only words he keep staying, over two years later I am still taking care of myself and I did fire that Doctor.
    I sure hope you can understand where I am coming from, all I ever ask for is Good Service and not a lot of B.S.
    Well just made a trip to the Tomball clinic for a appointment at 9:30 AM, Check in at 9:00 AM call in at 9:30 Am to the Nurses Station and return to waiting area at 10:05 were I sit until 10:45 where the Doctor call me in as we walk down the hall way she said I am sorry it take so long because I was seeing some walk in before me, seeing walk in and I had a appoinment here I am on oxygen with a 2 hour tank, Now I would like to know why she had to lie on my chart where she wrote she call me in at 10:15 AM? Call in 10:45 AM in her office a 10:46 and at 10:47 she log in and I walk out. SO why did she have to Lie about it?
    Just got a letter from the VA saying I have full medical Insurances at the VA, how can that be you can’t get service there went you need it.

  3. Ernie Howe January 28, 2022 at 7:26 pm

    BULLSHT! Here comes the mission informati0n lies from the VA system to “PROTECT THE SYSTEM!” I would let the VA cut my toe nails
    What about the Orth surgeon in an Indiana VA that “BOTCHED” 147 surgeries on vets feet & ankles & not fired just given probation. If I was in Arizona at noon & the VA told me the sun was out, I would go out & look for myself!
    Remember the VA IS FULL of lies! Don’t believe their bullsht! Remember # 1 mission of the VA is to PROTECT THE SYSTEM, by using bogus made up statistics, or FLAT OUT LIES. #2 mission is to skew the stats to accomplish #1. And #3 is to accomplish #’s 1 & 2 so they can get those bonuses & promoti0ns by doctors that cannot make.it in the REAL WORLD where professionalism & integrity are #1! I wouldn’t let VA doctors put a bandaide on my dog! Ask the 100 or so that died in Phoenix, the 38% of 370 vets used as guinea pigs to test thenoranged faced draft dodging cowards claim that Hydroxychorloquine cure for covid! The 27 murdered vets in a W. VA. VA hospital. Or the 22 year vet who was a civilian for 7 days overdosed with pain meds. at the Asheville Charles George CA back in Sept 2016. Not one person got punished. There is something wrong with this quote! The VA is an out of control govt agency who politicians on both sides are afraid of, so they just keep handing over MORE MONEY!
    I would NEVER let the VA cut on me or knock me out again! Ypu can be murdered at a VA & no one will get punished & the bullsht statistics will not suffer as with promotions & bonuses!
    Your choice, but I recommend that you research vets groups on social media because that is killing g the VA lies!
    And ask your politicians this. Both parties say vets get the “BEST CARE AVAILABLE!” Then why does Medicare say VA care will not meet the minimum requirements for Part B Medicare which any senior will say pretty much sucks! Why is that? To keep guinea pigs, oops, I meant vets FORCED into the corrupt, qualified, uncaring GOVT UNION HEALTHCARE! I’d ir wS good for Medicare Part B then we could gi e the VA a well deserved middle fi ger salute as we walk out the door to Medicare! You know doctors YOU PICK. Doctors that keep your business thru professionalism & integrity vs. poor vets being FORCED I to UNION GOVT HEALTHCARE
    Don’t listen ro their lies! They are performing g the #1 VA Mission of PROTECTING THE SYSTEM!
    I’ll bet this post gets deleted too! No truth here on this site here as we protect the SYSTEM!
    Good Luck Brother,

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