TAL & VFW issue joint press release on failing VA Nursing Homes

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TAL & VFW issue joint press release on failing VA Nursing Homes

This is just a shocking betrayal of veterans that comes from excellent and thorough reporting by USA Today and the Boston Globe:

Staffers at the Department of Veterans Affairs nursing home in Brockton, Massachusetts – rated among the worst VA nursing homes in the country – knew this spring that they were under scrutiny and that federal investigators were coming to visit, looking for signs of patient neglect.

Still, when investigators arrived, they didn’t have to look far: They found a nurse and a nurse’s aide fast asleep during their shifts. One dozed in a darkened room, the other was wrapped in a blanket in the locked cafeteria.

The sleeping staffers became a focal point of a new, scathing internal report about patient care at the facility, sparked by a nurse’s complaint that veterans were getting substandard care, according to a letter sent late last month to President Donald Trump and Congress by the agency that protects government whistleblowers.

“We have significant concern about the blatant disregard for veteran safety by the registered nurses and certified nurse assistants,” agency investigators wrote in a report about the 112-bed facility. The Brockton facility is a one-star nursing home, the lowest rating in the agency’s own quality ranking system. 

You should really go read the entire story, but this built on previous reporting from the same outlets:

The Bedford inspection report was one of two obtained by USA TODAY and the Globe. The other was on the VA nursing home in West Palm Beach, Florida, which also received one star out of five based on poor inspection findings.

Inspectors in March cited facility staff there for letting a resident sit for hours in soiled sheets. They left another with a bloodied boot. Two residents had bedsores, a potential sign of neglect.

Staff failed to medicate a resident who appeared to be writhing in pain during wound treatment and dressing changes, the report said. The resident, who suffered from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, moaned and groaned, grimaced, clenched his jaw and balled up his fists.

Inspectors found another resident crying out in pain who couldn’t participate in daily activities such as therapy. “The resident did not receive the care and services necessary to address the resident’s pain,” the report said.

Cashour said the facility has since recruited a new nurse manager who is “overseeing a robust improvement plan” for resident pain management and care delivery.

At the Bedford nursing home, Charles Amidon is largely bedridden with Parkinson's disease. His wife, Helga, said he can’t read or watch TV much because the VA-issued glasses don’t help his poor eyesight. Before early July, he hadn’t showered since April, though he may have been cleaned with a cloth in his bed. Last year, he came down with scabies, a contagious skin rash, that went undiagnosed for five months.

Just a horrible report all around.  I'm simply stunned that people could be so callous about the welfare of veterans like this, particularly people in the healthcare field.  

So the Legion and the VFW issued a somewhat rare joint press release.

The national commanders of the nation's two largest veterans organizations are demanding that Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie bring immediate attention to his nursing home program that currently has 70 percent of its 132 homes receiving failing grades by the VA's own rating system.

The call by Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. National Commander B.J. Lawrence and American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad is in response to a series of scathing articles by two USA Today and Boston Globe reporters who documented substandard and negligent care at the VA nursing home in Brockton, Mass., which is one of 45 nursing homes that received the VA's lowest rating of one star. Forty-seven homes received two stars, 16 homes three stars, and 15 homes four stars. Only nine nursing homes received the VA's top five-star rating.

"While much of the media's attention has been on the proper implementation of VA healthcare legislation, we cannot forget about 46,000 mostly senior veterans who reside in these nursing homes," said the two national commanders, who collectively speak for more than 4.6 million members and their auxiliaries.

"The media reports about sub-par care, patient neglect and safety violations at VA nursing homes are more than just disturbing," said the Legion's national commander. "Legionnaires, our friends in the VFW, and anybody who respects veterans should be angered by this," said Reistad. "These people should not be viewed as forgotten patients in a home. These are people who in the prime of their lives risked their lives, and made enormous sacrifices on behalf of our country. America's veterans deserve better. We not only expect VA to fix these problems immediately, but we want transparency. Those who sleep on the job and ignore the best interests of their patients need to find a different employer."

Echoing his counterpart, the VFW national commander said "These veterans earned the right to receive high quality care in a fully-staffed and well-managed facility. Their families deserve to know that their loved ones — their heroes — are not being abandoned or abused, and America needs to be reassured that the VA is honoring our nation's promise to those who have borne the battle," said Lawrence. "The VA must improve its delivery of quality care at these facilities. It must recruit and retain only the best healthcare professionals and support staff, and it must hold all employees accountable for their actions or inactions. It is not a right but a privilege to work for America's veterans, and anything less is unacceptable."

I'm glad these people doing this are out of a job, but clearly the failings are institutional and not just a few bad apples.  I'm sure Congress will really lay into VA when the hearing on this comes around.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.