The Veterans Administration (VA) is the largest single provider of surgical care in the United States. It operates 166 hospitals, containing approximately 5% of all the accredited surgical beds in the country. However, the importance of the VA to the surgical profession depends far less on its size than on its contribution to the education of future surgeons. More than 1,800 surgical residents received training in VA hospitals in 1970. Roughly one half of all residents who finish surgical training programs in the United States have some portion of their clinical experience in a VA hospital. The quality of surgical care in the VA is obviously a matter of general concern, both because of the large number of patients treated and because of the great influence such hospitals have on surgical residency training.
Widely publicized articles in the lay press have recently criticized the VA medical program. Its hospitals have