Veterans Group Calls for Inquiry After Report Charges Mismanagement
WASHINGTON – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America called on Congress and the Inspector General of Veteran Affairs to look into VA oversight of state-run veterans homes in the wake of a ProPublica investigation casting light on the grave consequences of a reportedly lax inspection regimen.
The piece, written by ProPublica’s David Armstrong, found that state-run veterans homes, which have suffered tremendously during the current coronavirus pandemic, routinely fall between the regulatory cracks.
According to Armstrong’s reporting, “the VA disclaims responsibility for them, and its inspections have overlooked issues later identified by other investigators.”
“In the military, we are trained to lead from the front and take responsibility in tough times,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of IAVA.
“We know the VA does not own this entire crisis, but the department appears to be bending over backwards to wash its hands of this when it has a very important and clear leadership role in keeping veterans safe in state-run homes,” Butler said. “The Secretary should lead on this grave issue now and Congress and the VA Inspector General should leave no stone unturned in its oversight of this tragedy.”
The report outlined disturbing accounts of understaffing and differences in the rigor of inspections of state-run soldiers’ homes between those done by the VA and those performed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The VA reportedly identifies far fewer deficiencies in care than those done by CMS. Although the VA does not directly manage the approximately 150 state-run homes that care for more than 20,000 veterans, they have the responsibility of regularly inspecting the facilities and funding care.
Four of the homes have had 50 or more deaths, and 73 deaths from the coronavirus have occurred at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts alone, Armstrong wrote.
Union officials pointed to staffing shortages and mismanagement by the home as a cause of the spread of COVID-19 at the facility.
“These are strong accusations, that if true, should bring very tough consequences,” Butler said.
“To care for those who have borne the battle is a paramount responsibility, and VA should be using all the tools in its toolbox to carry out that duty regardless of whether those veterans are in federal or state run facilities.”