Problems with negligent care are also a very real threat for veterans who reside in VA nursing homes. The stories are frightening. A recent investigation into 99 VA nursing homes across the U.S. found that, between April and December 2018, nearly 53% of the facilities were cited for deficiencies that caused “actual harm” to veterans.
In one case, Navy veteran Earl “Jim” Zook walked out of a “secured” unit in an Alabama VA nursing home and was never found. After Jim was declared dead in 2018, his wife of 38 years, Leslie Roe, asked to see the last three years of inspection reports on the nursing home – not too much to ask as inspection reports for private-sector nursing home reports are posted publicly and easily accessible online.
But the VA hasn’t posted nursing home inspection reports for years.
Finally, in June 2018 and only after results from outside investigations were made public, the VA began posting ratings of its nursing homes.
VA Nursing Homes Put Veterans in Immediate Jeopardy
Recent inspections revealed that VA facilities in 25 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were cited for deficiencies causing harm to veterans. Three facilities put veteran health and safety in “immediate jeopardy,” while inspectors found cases of both “harm” and “jeopardy” in eight facilities.
Many VA nursing homes failed to meet standards of care in as many as 10 key categories, including treating residents with dignity. One facility failed in 12 key categories.
In over 50% of the VA nursing homes investigated, residents were exposed to hazardous environments or were not properly monitored. Over 65% of the VA nursing homes investigated had staff who failed to follow routine safety protocols like changing into sterile gowns and using sterile gloves when treating residents. More than two dozen VA nursing homes were cited for neglecting to prevent and treat bedsores.
3 VA Nursing Facilities Fail to Monitor Hot Water Temps
Inspectors cited three facilities for allowing residents to bathe and wash hands in water as hot as 128oF. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends facilities set water heaters no higher than 120oF to help prevent the approximately 3,800 injuries and 34 deaths that occur each year, mostly in children and elderly, due to scalding from excessively hot tap water.
Last year, reports revealed VA nursing home residents were nearly three times as likely to develop bedsores than private nursing home residents. Investigators found that nurses and aides failed to empty bedside urinals or provide clean drinking water at night. Inspectors found nurses sleeping in locked rooms during their shifts.
In one case, inspectors found a patient’s oxygen tank empty, and the patient left unmonitored for hours. When some nurses complained to superiors about the poor care, they were ignored. Good nurses often quit their jobs soon after discovering the dangerous environment and lack of concern for patients.
Our nation’s veterans deserve to be treated with the highest respect, yet the VA system continues to knowingly fail these valuable men and women despite years of criticisms and recommendations for change.
If you or a loved one suspect a VA nursing home facility of improper patient care or have experienced patient neglect or injury, our experienced veterans’ disability attorneys with Gang & Associates are here to help. Contact us today.