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History of neglect at VA nursing homes uncovered

VA nursing homeFor years, the VA has been hiding statistics on the quality of care at its nursing homes because it didn’t want the public to know how bad it was. Recently, pressed by the Boston Globe and US Today the VA finally made its data public and it is scary.

Among the 133 VA nursing homes located all over the US, 60 (almost half of them) received one star out of  five for their quality of care. Pennsylvania has five of these facilities. Texas and California both have four of them. Only two facilities received five stars: Castle Point, NY and Carrollton, GA.

Families had no access to nursing home ranking and information

It is very disturbing that families of veterans had no access to information related to the quality of care while looking for a nursing home for their loved one.

For example, when his father’s dementia started to worsen, Nick Bonnanno moved his dad from an assisted living facility to a VA nursing home in Bedford hoping for his dad to receive more specialized care. However Nick had no idea that the VA ranked the Bedford facility among the worst in the country with the main reason being that it was over-medicating its residents with anti-psychotic drugs. A few days after his dad was accepted, Nick said his dad became dazed, confused and disheveled as staff started medicating him.

In another case, Zook Roe, a Vietnam vet who was suffering from dementia was placed by his wife in a VA nursing home in Tuskegee. His wife made the decision to move him to a nursing home because Zook, as part of his disease, was wandering away from their home and she was scared to loose track of him. When she arrived with her husband at the VA facility, the staff put a bracelet on his wrist to warn that he was a flight risk. He was also placed in a secure ward. They assured her that her husband was in the best place. Three months later, Zook walked out in the woods and the staff lost track of him. Searches with dogs and helicopters were unsuccessful. He was declared dead after a few months because he couldn’t live without medications but his body was never found.

These are just two of the many dramatic stories of nursing home neglect that families have been put through when putting their loved one in a VA facility.

While private nursing homes are subject to inspections and specific legal requirements about reporting, governmental nursing home are not. There shouldn’t be a gap between the two and veterans and their families should be able to access the same information about VA nursing homes so they can make the right choice.

Read more in the Globe