Following several scathing investigations and reports, veterans’ groups are demanding better care at the nursing homes run by the beleaguered Department of Veteran Affairs. While public condemnation has mounted for the past few years over the VA’s ability to care for the country’s 20.4 million veterans, criticism of the nursing homes run by the government agency began last summer when a report found that 70 percent of the VA’s nursing homes received failing grades. Perhaps even worse, more than half of these nursing homes received the lowest grade possible. According to news organizations, the government has collected quality reports and grades for each nursing home run by the federal agency each year. Until the rankings leaked this year, the government had chosen not to publish the results.
In a follow-up investigation reported by The Boston Globe this week, news reporters found a VA nursing home filled with sleeping staffers and a closed cafeteria. Other examples the substandard level of care found at VA nursing homes include a veteran with undiagnosed scabies, a veteran who had sat in soiled sheets for hours, and a veteran writhing in pain because he had not received his scheduled medication, according to USA Today. The national newspaper also reported that a nursing home in Alabama declared a Navy Veteran dead after he simply walked out of a supposedly secure nursing home one night and did not return. Rege Riley, national commander of American Veterans, told USA Today that the “stories being reported about the treatment of some individual veterans at these facilities are nothing short of horrifying.”
After the newspaper’s report of the staff’s incompetence and the nursing home’s endangered residents, veteran advocacy groups have called on the federal government to step up enforcement and improve the quality of care at its nursing homes. Brett Reistad, American Legion National Commander, said “The media reports about sub-par care, patient neglect and safety violations at VA nursing homes are more than just disturbing. Anybody who respects veterans should be angered by this.” Referencing the staffers caught asleep by The Boston Globe, Reistad said that America’s veterans deserve better and the VA should “fix these problems immediately.” Reistad was joined by Veterans of Foreign Wars. According to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, these are the two largest veteran groups in the country and, combined, represent over 4.6 million veterans.