WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 22, 2007) - To ensure the 1,400 hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other facilities where veterans receive health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs are in top-notch physical condition, the Department's senior physician said a special review of all facilities concludes most deficiencies involve "normal wear and tear."

"The overwhelming majority of issues identified by this special review are the kinds of items you would expect to find - and see being addressed - in an organization with nearly 150 million square feet of space where 1 million patients come each week," said Dr. Michael Kussman, VA's Acting Under Secretary for Health.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson ordered the review March 7 in the wake of reports about poor physical condition in some non-VA health-care facilities housing wounded and injured servicemembers.

Kussman said the Department's $519 million maintenance budget for this year, coupled with $573 million proposed for next year, should take care of maintenance shortcomings. If further funds are needed, VA pledged to work with congressional committees to identify how to best address those needs.

"VA facilities are inspected more frequently than any other health-care facilities in the nation," Kussman said. "We will continue to monitor closely the progress of corrective action identified by this special report."

Kussman noted that most of the maintenance issues identified in the special report did not involve areas providing direct patient care.

VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the United States, with 155 hospitals, nearly 900 outpatient clinics and 135 nursing homes. VA treated more than 5.4 million patients last year, accounting for about 55 million outpatient visits and 600,000 hospitalizations.

VA's health care system has been widely cited as the best in the country, with accolades ranging from Harvard University, which last year awarded VA the prestigious "Innovations in Government" award for its computerized patient records, to major news media outlets, such as "U.S. News & World Report," which said in a headline last summer, "VA Hospitals Are Models of Top-Notch Care."