Our U.S. military veterans deserve our utmost gratitude and respect for the sacrifices they have made to keep our country safer. Much of their care falls under the umbrella of the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, often referred to simply as, “the VA.” One would assume the care provided by the VA would be top-of-the-line. However, a recent report by USA Today reveals the nursing home care provided to veterans appears to be less-than-ideal.
In fact, some of the lowest-rated nursing homes in the country are apparently those that provide care to veterans. That includes one in Tampa, Florida. This and 10 others scattered nationally from Massachusetts to Arizona have earned the lowest possible one-star rating (on a scale of 1-to-5) from the VA on the basis of the overall quality they provide as well as the findings during surprise inspections.
Among the problems cited by USA Today:
- Nurse’s aides trying by themselves to lift 90+-year-old patients and transfer them from wheelchairs to beds.
- Patients struggling to feed themselves unsuccessfully with spoons, despite staffers sitting nearby.
- Veterans lying naked in beds covered by stained sheets.
These instances, as reported by federal regulators, are all clear instances of neglect. Hundreds of veterans live at each of these facilities. Poor grades by federal investigators indicate treatment that may be worthy of legal action if it results in more serious injuries or illnesses.
One aide was reportedly supposed to check on a patient once hourly because of health condition that could cause his heart to stop suddenly without warning. Instead, she was reportedly playing video games on her computer. She and several others have since resigned.
A hospital director of one of those VA hospital and nursing home director insisted facilities provide top quality care for all veterans, though the team is constantly improving.
But this isn’t the first time Veterans affairs has come under fire for its health care for veterans. Four years ago, the VA paid an estimated $200 million for wrongful death of veterans stemming from negligent care of some 1,000 veterans. In one of those cases, a WWII veteran suffered paralysis from the neck down when he fell in the bathtub of a VA nursing home in Nebraska. He died 9 days later. His family had pleaded with staff at the facility not to leave him alone. Hospital directors pointed out these 1,000 wrongful death settlements (an average of $150,000 per case, which is must less than most wrongful death cases) represent a small percentage of the 6 million veterans for whom they provide care.
Our positions as Palm Beach nursing home attorneys is that even one is too many.
Further, there has been a good amount of fair criticism of lacking accountability at these facilities. For example, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2011 at a VA hospital in Pennsylvania left six veterans deceased and 21 ill. Following this, the regional director received a $63,000 bonus, no mention of the outbreak was made in his performance review and he retired soon after.
In one VA nursing home in West Palm Beach, which also received just one star based on poor findings during inspections, facility staff had been cited for allowing residents to sit for hours in soiled sheets, leaving another in a bloody boot and allowing to residents to suffer bedsores (which our West Palm Beach nursing home attorneys know is a clear sign of neglect).