Congressman Lamar Smith

Representing the 21st District of Texas
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VA gives South Texas facilities 3 out of 5 stars

Dec 21, 2016
In The News

SAN ANTONIO – After years of public pressure, the Department of Veterans Affairs is releasing ratings for each of its medical centers around the country.

The ratings were first reported in an investigation by USA Today. The newspaper reports for the whole medical system in South Texas, the VA gives itself a rating of three stars out of a possible five.

“I definitely think that’s a fair rating,” local veteran Tara Hutchinson says.

Ever since a roadside bomb severed her leg, she turned to making jewelry for therapy as well as a career.

"For a time it was so bad I could not get out of bed,” Hutchinson says.

She depends on the VA for medical care, and has no complaints about her doctors and nurses.

"I think they're wonderful,” Hutchinson says.

And she has seen positive change. Right now, the VA says more than 92% of South Texas patients get appointments within 30 days,

“If they can't, they give me this little card,” Hutchinson says. “And it says that will allow me to get medical care anywhere on the outside."

But as the rating shows, problems persist. She waited months for a wheelchair that would fit in her car.

"Infuriated me because I really just have a feeling that paperwork sat on somebody's desk for three months,” Hutchinson says.

Our local facilities got good marks for patients satisfaction and quality of care, but a weakness is the perception of timeliness and availability. Local leaders are now working on a better call center to serve patients.

Leaders at the local Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital also shared a blog written by a top VA leader to put the rating system in context.

Congressman Lamar Smith, a longtime advocate for veterans, sounded off about the rating in a statement.

“South Texas veterans deserve more than mid-grade quality of care,” he wrote. “There is certainly room for improvement with this three star score.”

The wounded warrior turned business owner knows where to start.

"If you have smooth communication from the bottom to the top, and all the way around, it's just going to make things work better,” Hutchinson says.