All systems have flaws and the VA is no exception BUT,
it's much more than just "inpatient experiences".
The health care they provide is proactive. They give you
twice yearly checkups whether you feel sick or not. That
catches problems early and saves lives/money. They also actively
track ongoing problems and stats like cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.
Pharmacy: Depending on disability rating it's a small co-pay
or free. I couldn't afford the meds I take without the VA.
Fee Basis Services: Emergency care at local hospitals is paid for
on a "fee service" basis. My 2010 heart attack precluded a 75 mile
ride to the VA hospital so I got care 1 mile away at a major university
hospital. It was all covered by the VA.
Mental Health: They need more qualified people but what help they can
offer is immediate and easy to locate. Just press 1 on their phone menu.
Long Term Care: Assisted Living facilities are available and
way better than typical nursing homes.
Attitude: Where else do patients get thanked (repeatedly) for just being a patient?
As regards the "Horror stories": All hospital stays, especially after a surgery, are less than pleasant.
Each procedure has odds. Sometimes patients die.