Concerns about the quality of care at VA nursing homes have prompted recent investigations, uncovering severe issues of neglect and abuse at these facilities.
Although the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims to provide high-quality care, recent investigations discovered widespread abuse and mistreatment of veterans in VA nursing homes. Dozens of VA homes provide substandard care, causing harm to veterans. In a few facilities, inspectors found the wellbeing of residents was in immediate danger.
Standard of Care in VA Nursing Homes
Over the past few years, doctors, nurses, veterans, and family members have shared their stories about neglect and abuse at VA-run nursing homes. Despite this, the VA continues to mislead people about the standard of care in their homes.
The VA houses 46,000 veterans every year in its nursing homes, operating 133 facilities across 46 states. The VA monitors the quality of care at these nursing homes and ranks each facility based on inspections and quality indicators. Last year, USA Today and The Boston Globe coaxed the VA to share these quality statistics.
The VA documents revealed that half of their nursing homes received the lowest possible quality rating — 1 out of 5 stars.
The VA’s nursing homes scored worse on average than private nursing homes in several areas. For example, the number of residents experiencing pain was much higher in VA-run nursing homes. VA nursing home residents were also more likely to receive antipsychotic medication, experience trouble performing daily activities, and develop preventable bed sores.
VA Homes Investigated for Harming Veterans
Recent independent investigations have uncovered many examples of VA nursing homes providing poor care to veterans, such as:
- Untrained aides providing improper care
- Staff disrespecting residents
- Water temperatures dangerously hot
One investigation took place last year at the VA nursing home in Brockton, Massachusetts. Upon arrival, investigators found two nurses asleep during their shifts.
Investigators found that residents at the Brockton nursing home were more likely to report serious pain and experience deteriorating health. Residents were also three times more likely to have bedsores than residents of private facilities.
The VA’s quality ratings reveal that over 100 VA homes provided worse quality care than private facilities.
Last year, one nurse from the Brockton nursing home reported that many aides failed to empty bedside urinals, provide clean water at night or check on veterans regularly. She also said that sleeping on the job was common practice.
Another investigation revealed significant problems in VA nursing homes of 25 states. A nursing home in New Jersey did not have any way for residents to call caregivers. In Ohio and Maine, facilities did not provide adequate pain medication to residents. Inspectors also cited eight facilities for putting resident health and safety in jeopardy.
At many VA facilities, staff did not follow standard procedures for care and treatment.
Investigations showed that staff failed to prevent and control the spread of infection in several homes. Many did not wear sterile gloves while tending to veterans. Sadly, one veteran experienced six urinary tract infections within seven months due to inadequate cleaning. At over 24 nursing homes, staff failed to prevent bedsores.
Vets Have Been Misled About Quality of Care
The VA knew that a large portion of their nursing homes had serious problems. Despite this, they assured residents and their families that VA centers provide similar care to private nursing homes.
Although the VA has been tracking the quality of care in their facilities, this information has not been available to the public. In 2009, the VA banned the release of data after a report revealed serious problems at a Philadelphia nursing home.
Federal laws require private nursing homes to disclose their care data so that the government can share this information with the public. That way, people can review inspection results, staffing information, and quality measures on nursing homes. The VA does not fall under these regulations.
The VA finally released some data after requests from the media, but they did not disclose detailed information about infection and injury rates. Advocates are urging the VA to make all of their data public immediately.
Demanding Justice for Veterans in Nursing Homes
Veterans — and all elders — deserve high-quality care during the remaining years of their lives. They shouldn’t be forced to endure neglect, abuse, and disrespect from the people they depend on for daily care. It’s our responsibility to hold nursing homes responsible for the harm they may be causing to their residents.
Everyone has the power to stop elder abuse. Too often, poor quality care leads to injury, illness, or wrongful death. If you or a loved one have experienced neglect or abuse in a nursing home, contact Nursing Home Abuse Justice for a free legal case review.