House Committee opens investigation into VA nursing homes

Jonathan Kaupanger
July 17, 2018 - 5:53 pm

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The House Committee on Veterans Affairs is opening an investigation into how Veterans Affairs cares for veterans living in 133 of their nursing homes.  The investigation comes after it was discovered that 60 of those nursing homes received only one out of five stars for quality.

Some of the more shocking instances of neglect include the body of a dead veteran who was left in a shower for more than nine hours, a patient who had to have a leg amputated after his toes turned black and maggots started attacking them, and residents at several facilities suffering urinary tract infections at a rate that’s twice the national average 

According to USA Today, House VA Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn) said he was “disturbed” by the report. Roe is referring a investigative news collaboration between USA Today and The Boston Globe that uncovered VA's secret internal ratings on the nursing homes.  Documents were also uncovered showing that the majority of patients in VA’s nursing homes were more likely to suffer pain and bedsores than patients staying in civilian nursing homes.  

Connecting Vets reported last month that VA officials said it’s misleading to compare VA with private nursing homes because patients at the VA have more challenging medical conditions.  VA’s own internal tracking shows VA nursing home patients are five times more likely to report being in pain than those in private nursing homes. 

The one star facilities that have spurred the investigation by USA Today and The Globe are located in 32 states.  In total, VA operates nursing homes in 46 states, taking care of about 46,000 veterans each year. 

VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said, “We look forward to informing the committee about the care we provide veterans in our nursing homes and how it compares closely to care in the private sector.”

The VA has maintained that reports on nursing home inspections are protected from disclosure under federal law and are kept from the public. Last month, VA did release some information contained in these inspection reports, but didn't include information on several key indicators including anti-psychotic drug prescription and resident deterioration.

Cashour said this week that VA would release the full nursing home reports and that they are working with an outside contractor to remove all patient personal information before releasing them.  

The House Committee expects the hearing to be held this fall.

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