05/21/2014 03:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Veterans Administration Faces Public Opinion Crisis, Too

Nearly half of Americans think that returning veterans receive worse care from Veterans Affairs hospitals than they would from civilian hospitals, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted on the heels of the growing scandal over allegations of delays in treatment contributing to deaths of veterans.

Forty-seven percent of Americans in the poll said the care veterans receive at VA hospitals is worse than at other major U.S. hospitals, while only 12 percent said the care is better. Twenty-one percent said it is about the same.

A 2008 Harvard School of Public Health poll, which was conducted over the phone by Harris Interactive, asked the same question and found that only 36 percent of Americans thought returning veterans received worse care at VA hospitals than at other major hospitals at that time.

In the new poll, 72 percent of respondents who said they previously served in the military -- and more than half of those with family members who currently serve or previously did -- said care at VA hospitals is worse than at other major hospitals.

Similarly, 45 percent of Americans said they would not feel comfortable with someone in their family receiving medical care from the VA, while only 30 percent said they would feel comfortable.

The survey was conducted before President Barack Obama spoke Wednesday about the allegations that some hospitals covered up delays in treatment, including delays at a Phoenix hospital that allegedly led to 40 veterans dying while they awaited treatment.

The poll shows signs that some Americans may view the VA through a partisan lens. Fifty-one percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents, but only 36 percent of Democrats, said they would not trust VA hospitals to care for a family member.

But the public has little confidence in the Department of Veterans Affairs regardless of party, the poll shows. Overall, only 6 percent of respondents said they have a lot of confidence, and another 22 percent said they have some confidence. Meanwhile, 28 percent said they have a little confidence and 32 percent said they have none at all. Democrats, Republicans and independents were all more likely to say they have no confidence or only a little than to say they have some or a lot of confidence in the department.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted May 19-20 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.



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