Veterans Affairs unveils first rankings for its 133 nursing homes

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Rankings unveiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the first time this week allow consumers to compare 133 federally run nursing homes against thousands of privately operated ones ranked by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Like Nursing Home Compare, the system uses a starred rating system, with one star being the worst and five being the best. Stars are awarded for staffing, quality and survey performance, as well for overall performance.

VA officials said they plan to update the rankings annually, saying the effort is part or a department-wide focus on "transparency and accountability."

“Now that VA has made a commitment to reporting accurate quality and comparative data on its nursing homes, we are pleased to begin adding that important information to our transparency portfolio for the benefit of veterans in making their healthcare choices,” said Acting VA Secretary Peter O'Rourke.

According to internal data, 60 nursing homes improved from 2017, and 73 experienced no significant change in quality. One facility -- the nursing home associated with the VA Black Hills Health Care System in Hot Springs, SD, -- dropped in quality during the past year but still earned a four-star rating.

Of the 15,487 homes rated by CMS, almost 29% have five-star ratings, compared to about 26% of VA homes. However, the VA had a smaller percentage receive one-star ratings: 8% compared to 13% for private homes.

The VA released one-to-five star performance ratings for its medical centers last year, after an investigation by USA Today found those ratings were being withheld, according to Military.com.

O'Rourke said the nursing home data would be used to drive improvements, “including aggressive efforts to improve our 11 one-star facilities by sharing best practices.”