After a report from USA Today and The Boston Globe last year revealed startling conditions in a number of VA nursing facilities across the country, inspections by a private contractor reveal new details. The latest inspection shows how veterans in VA nursing homes are reportedly experiencing harm or being neglected at facilities in 25 states. The VA has defended the conditions in its nursing homes and maintains that its system "compares closely" to private ones.
The reports were the result of private inspectors conducting visits to 99 VA nursing homes from April to December last year. In the new report, per The Globe, 52 of those 99 facilities were supposedly causing "actual harm" to veterans, and three of those facilities were apparently putting the health and safety of the veterans in "immediate jeopardy."
After the VA released its own inspection results, it published a statement on March 15. The statement reads, "The health care inspection reports show that, in comparison with non-VA facilities rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), VA has a lower number of low-performing facilities (VA: 17.2 percent, non-VA: 19.7 percent) and a higher number of higher-performing facilities." It also quotes VA Secretary Robert Wilkie as saying, “Overall, VA’s nursing home system compares closely with private sector nursing homes, though the department on average cares for sicker and more complex patients in its nursing homes than do private facilities."
Bustle has reached out to the VA for comment.
For many who work in the industry, however, the VA's explanation isn't enough. To USA Today, Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, said, “That is really bad. It’s really bad ... It should be very rare when there is harm (or) when someone is ... in immediate jeopardy." He added, "It’s heartbreaking, and you think these are our vets, how can we not be taking care of them?”
Months earlier, a report from USA Today and The Boston Globe revealed that the VA tracked quality statistics of its nursing facilities for several years and didn't immediately make the results public. Almost half of VA nursing homes were receiving the agency's lowest quality ranking (one out of five stars) in those statistics.
In response to that initial report, VA officials provided a similar statement to the most recent one, USA Today reports. They maintained that care for VA nursing home residents is more challenging than normal facilities. They also argued that it was misleading to use pain level of residents as a metric to monitor success, as VA residents were more likely to have painful conditions.
At the time, Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, pointed out a striking point following the investigation, to USA Today: “I still can’t get over that this information is not available to people who are looking for a veteran’s home. That’s just unacceptable.”
Apparently, the VA is hoping to change that. To USA Today, VA spokesman Curt Cashour said on Wednesday that the agency's intention in posting the VA reports publicly for the first time was to "drive improvements throughout the system."