The image is disturbing and outrageous: U.S. military veterans who made sacrifices for our country suffering harm from nursing home neglect in VA nursing homes.
Inspectors hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs cited 52 out of 99 VA nursing homes for deficiencies that caused “actual harm” to veterans from April through December 2018, USA Today reported. In three facilities, inspectors found veterans’ health and safety in “immediate jeopardy.” In eight, inspectors said they found veterans suffering both “harm” and “jeopardy” — using two standard industry terms.
The investigation identified nursing homes in 25 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as providing deficient care. The study included inspections at the Salem VA Medical Center in Salem, VA; Martinsburg VA Medical Center in Martinsburg, WV; and the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center.
Nine months before the VA contractors’ inspections, the newspapers USA TODAY and The Boston Globe reported veterans received substandard care at many VA nursing homes. More than 40,000 elderly and infirm veterans stay in VA nursing homes in a given year.
The Kendall Law Firm of Charlottesville, Winchester and Harrisonburg, Virginia, dedicates 100 percent of its practice to injury cases, including protecting those who have suffered injuries caused by nursing home abuse and neglect. Our founding attorney, David B. Kendall, is a former Judge Advocate General with the U.S. Marine Corps and is particularly concerned about the treatment and welfare of fellow veterans.
If you know a veteran or anyone else who has suffered harm under questionable circumstances while in a VA nursing home or a long-term care facility, contact us for a free consultation about your legal options.
VA Nursing Home Residents Suffer Bedsores, Other Signs of Neglect
Among the more problematic findings in the VA report is that staff at more than two dozen Virginia nursing homes failed to provide treatment to ensure that veterans’ bedsores healed, or new ones didn’t develop. Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, can develop when bedridden patients are left in the same position for too long.
Bedsores are caused by neglect of the infirm. No one who enters a nursing home without bedsores should ever be allowed to develop one.
In a separate report, USA Today says internal documents shows residents at more than two-thirds of VA nursing homes in 2018 were more likely than their counterparts in private nursing homes to have serious bedsores and to suffer serious pain.
Among other findings, as reported by USA Today:
- Many VA nursing homes failed to take steps to prevent and control infection — one of the most fundamental responsibilities of any medical care facility. The staffs of two out of three nursing homes often didn’t follow simple protocols, such as wearing sterile gowns and gloves when treating residents.
- Residents weren’t properly monitored or were exposed to hazardous conditions at more than 50 VA nursing homes.
- Water used to wash hands and bathe was so dangerously hot at three nursing homes, including at Martinsburg, West Virginia, that it could scald residents, particularly those with dementia or other conditions that make them less sensitive to pain or heat.
- A handful of VA nursing homes failed to meet standards of care in as many as 10 key categories, such as treating residents with dignity.
The article also cites two cases of families being allowed to hire private aides for nursing home residents who inspectors witnessed neglecting the veterans they were paid to assist.
VA Responds to Indications of Neglect at VA Nursing Home Facilities
USA Today and The Boston Globe reported in June 2018 that the VA was hiding poor ratings that inspectors were finding at VA nursing homes across the country. Nearly half of VA nursing homes nationwide – 60 – received the agency’s lowest ranking of one out of five stars as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to documents obtained by USA Today and The Boston Globe.
At the time, the VA had made some of its ratings public in response to reporters’ inquiries.
In March 2019, in response to the newspapers’ questioning, the VA made inspection reports from more than 100 nursing homes public and said veterans in nursing homes are more difficult to care for than residents of private facilities. A VA news release says 42 percent of VA nursing home residents last year had conditions related to military service that left them 50 percent or more disabled.
“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,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said.
The reports from inspections of VA-operated “Community Living Centers,” which cover April 2018 to present, are available at https://www.va.gov/QUALITYOFCARE/apps/aspire/clcsurvey.aspx.
Choosing a Nursing Home for Your Loved One
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers several options for veterans’ long-term care. Each state establishes eligibility and admission criteria for VA nursing homes within its boundaries. A U.S. veteran’s eligibility for residential care is based on clinical need and the availability of a bed at the facility. Such factors as financial eligibility, VA disability status, insurance coverage, and/or ability to pay may also affect eligibility.
Many veterans enter private retirement or nursing homes instead of VA care.
Choosing a nursing home or another long-term care option requires research of the options available. A good place to start is to ask people you trust, like your family, friends or religious leaders, and your doctor, particularly if he or she provides care at any local nursing homes. It’s also a good idea to compare nursing homes.
Here are a few tips from a more comprehensive guide to choosing a nursing home published by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services:
- Identify the nursing homes near you or where you want to live, and the services they offer.
- Visit multiple nursing homes you are interested in or have someone you trust visit on your behalf. Ask a lot of questions. Speak up about any conditions you don’t like about a facility and ask for an explanation. The guide at the link above has a checklist on pages 35–43 to use to compare nursing homes.
- Look for a long-term care home that will meet your medical needs and your social and spiritual needs. Look for a facility that is clean and has a helpful staff.
- Ask to see the current inspection report and certification of any nursing home you are seriously considering. Nursing homes that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding are required to have regular inspections and meet certain standards. They’ll know exactly what you mean by inspection report and certification.
- If you’re in a hospital, talk to the hospital discharge planner or your doctor. They may be able to help you find a suitable nursing home or arrange for other short-term care until a bed is available at the nursing home.
The nursing home will request and need to be provided the following types of information about new patients:
- Information about any health care coverage and long-term care insurance you have that pays for nursing home care, health care, or both.
- Information about your medical history.
- Information about your current health status.
- A list of current medicines, including dosage, how often you take it and when and why.
- A list of all your health care providers, including names, addresses, and phone numbers.
- A list of family members to call in case of an emergency.
- Your health care advance directives, i.e., living will and durable power of attorney for health care.
The nursing home will provide information about how to apply for Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They must also give you information about getting refunds for payments you may have previously made that are covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
How a Nursing Home Abuse/Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Nursing home abuse, neglect and exploitation is far more common than many people recognize. Your loved one may exhibit common signs of abuse or neglect, such as unexplained physical injury or illness, or a psychological response to abuse, such as withdrawal, anger or anxiety. If you suspect that your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in a VA nursing home or a private long-term care facility, you should consult a knowledgeable nursing home abuse attorney.
Our personal injury lawyers can work to investigate the treatment your loved one has received and prepare a compelling case or compensation on behalf of your loved one.
If the Kendall Law Firm can pursue a nursing home abuse or elder neglect claim for you, you will not pay us any fees until we obtain compensation for you. Contact us today for a free and confidential review of your case and a discussion of how we can help your family.