The federal government has hidden poor quality ratings at Veterans Affairs nursing homes from the public, according to a high-profile report, issued Monday.

VA officials have tracked detailed quality and safety measures at its nursing homes for years, yet they have kept the information private, USA Today and the Boston Globe reported. Roughly half of the VA facilities, about 60, received the agency’s lowest ranking out of five stars as of the end of last year, the newspapers reported.

The VA released the first rankings of its homes last week, which the report says came to light after reporters questioned the secrecy. USA Today and the Globe point out that VA homes faired worse on nine of 11 key indicators when compared to their private sector counterparts, including antipsychotic drug prescribing and resident deterioration. VA homes performed particularly worse than their counterparts on relieving resident pain.

VA spokesman Curt Cashour told reporters that it is “misleading” to compare pain between the private sector and its homes, which deal with much more complex patients, who generally suffer from much more challenging conditions. He also said VA homes have improved quality in the past year.

“We are committed to continuous improvement efforts in all of the (VA nursing homes) and demonstrating performance that is as good (as) or better than private sector facilities,” he said.