Suzanne Gordon

Suzanne Gordon is the Senior Policy Fellow at the Veterans' Health Care Policy Institute, as well as a journalist and co-editor of a Cornell University Press series on health-care work and policy issues. Her latest book is The Battle for Veterans' Healthcare: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Policy Making and Patient Care. She has won a Special Recognition Award from Disabled American Veterans for her writing on veterans' health issues, much of which has appeared in The American Prospect. Her website is

Recent Articles

Report: VA Outperforms Private Sector on Key Measures

(Photo: AP/Molly Riley)
(Photo: AP/Molly Riley) Witnesses from the Department of Veterans Affairs testify on Capitol Hill this month. A little-noticed recent report by three leading research groups found that on critical measures, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) consistently performs as well as and often better than private sector health-care providers. The VHA does this with patients who are sicker, older, and poorer than many of their counterparts seen in the private sector. Among the key findings of the report, conducted by the consulting firms Grant Thornton and McKinsey & Company, along with two nonprofit research companies—the RAND Corp and the MITRE Corporation—were that: • Postoperative morbidity was lower for VA patients compared with non-veterans receiving non-VA care. • Inpatient care was more or as effective in VA as in non-VA hospitals. • VA hospitals were more likely to follow best practices in the use of central venous catheter line infection prevention...

Why the Veterans Health System Is Better Than You Think

Despite ideological attacks and under-funding, the Veterans Health Administration is a model public system.

(Photo: AP/Rich Pedroncelli)
This article appears in the Fall 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . The other day, as part of my current research on patient care at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), I tagged along with an occupational therapist named Heather Freitag. She works for the VHA’s Home Based Primary Care Program (HBPC) in San Francisco, and was making her first visit to a 79-year-old Korean War veteran suffering from dementia. The man’s wife, only five years younger, was clearly overwhelmed by the burden of caring for him by herself while dealing with her own mounting health problems. For more than an hour, Freitag scrutinized every niche and cranny of their tidy bungalow in the Excelsior district of the city. The VHA caregiver quickly discovered that her patient’s narrow, sagging bed made it too difficult for his wife to turn him. In his frail condition, the two-inch lip around their shower stall had also become an insurmountable obstacle to daily...

Families on Call

There are 25.8 million family caregivers in America today. According to a recent study by the United Hospital Fund of New York, they provide the equivalent of nearly $200 billion worth of health care services per year. That's almost double the annual amount the United States spends on nursing home and home health care. Yet when the press and the policy experts tally up the rising costs of a health care system in crisis, they routinely omit family caregivers' enormous contributions of time, energy, and emotional and financial resources--all of which are expended in the isolation of private homes. The resulting invisibility of family caregiving may be understandable, but undervaluing this critical component of our health care system is economically shortsighted and morally unacceptable. Given current demographic trends, a lot more of us are going to need more family care--and soon. Advances in public health, medical treatment, and nursing care have, in fact, produced more people in need...

Feminism and Caregiving

Career-minded feminists intent on devaluing caregiving should instead be doing its opposite—increasing its currency among men and women.

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Nurse, Interrupted

It's May 13, the day after Florence Nightingale's birthday, and as part of the annual celebration of Nurses' Week--established in part to commemorate Nightingale's role in the development of professional nursing--members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association have asked me to speak to a group of registered nurses (RNs) at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Health Care Campus in Worcester. Usually, such events are upbeat--occasions for flowery praise of America's largest predominantly female profession, which is also the largest profession in the health care system. Not today. The 30 or so middle-aged nurses who straggle into a bare auditorium look like they're attending a wake. In a sense, they are. These RNs entered the profession with high expectations and a strong sense of purpose several decades ago, but the field they work in is no longer either patient- or nurse-friendly terrain. The health care system has changed, and nurses like the weary ones at this event feel they...