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Hawaii-area chief petty officers participate in a community outreach event for veterans at the Community Living Center at Tripler Army Medical Center on April 04, 2018.

Hawaii-area chief petty officers participate in a community outreach event for veterans at the Community Living Center at Tripler Army Medical Center on April 04, 2018. (Justin R. Pacheco/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs revealed its internal rankings of 133 VA nursing homes nationwide, allowing veterans and their families to see where their local facilities land in a one-to-five rating system.

The VA posted the performance ratings onto its website Tuesday and said it would update the information annually. The document lists nursing homes by the VA system with which they are associated. It shows one-to-five star ratings for staffing and quality, as well as ratings based on unannounced on-site surveys to each nursing home. Finally, each facility is given an overall rating.

Of the 133 nursing home listed, 34 earned five-star ratings overall, the highest given. Eleven had 1-star ratings, the lowest.

Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke said the information would be used to “drive improvements across the VA nursing home system.”

Sixty of the nursing homes improved from 2017, and 73 experienced no significant change in quality, the document shows. One facility – the nursing home associated with the VA Black Hills Health Care System in Hot Springs, S.D. – dropped in quality during the past year but still earned a four-star rating.

The VA used the overall star ratings to compare their nursing homes to private homes, which are given star ratings by the Centers for Medicare, a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Of the 15,487 homes rated by the Centers for Medicare, nearly 29 percent have five-star ratings, compared to about 26 percent of VA homes. However, the VA had a smaller percentage receive one-star ratings — 8 percent compared to 13 percent for private homes.

The VA touted the disclosure of the ratings, claiming it was part of a larger shift toward “transparency and accountability” at the department under President Donald Trump.

Last year, the VA released one-to-five star performance ratings for its medical centers. The action was made under pressure following an investigation by USA Today that revealed the ratings were being withheld.

The department also began posting the VA secretary’s travel itineraries last year, the same day that the Washington Post reported former VA Secretary David Shulkin went sightseeing and attended a Wimbledon tennis match on an official trip to Europe.

Other public disclosures made during the past year include the opioid prescription rates at VA facilities, wait times for appointments and lists of disciplinary measures that the VA has taken against its employees.

wentling.nikki@stripes.com Twitter: @nikkiwentling

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Nikki Wentling has worked for Stars and Stripes since 2016. She reports from Congress, the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs and throughout the country about issues affecting veterans, service members and their families. Wentling, a graduate of the University of Kansas, previously worked at the Lawrence Journal-World and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans awarded Stars and Stripes the Meritorious Service Award in 2020 for Wentling’s reporting on homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, she was named by the nonprofit HillVets as one of the 100 most influential people in regard to veterans policymaking.

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