by Robert Booth, Center for Clinical Social Work

In Congress, the House Veterans Affairs Committee has begun investigating the VA’s operation of its 133 nursing homes, 60 of which the VA had secretly given the lowest possible ranking for quality. Reporters from the Boston Globe and USA Today uncovered the secret rankings, which revealed, among other things, that two-thirds of VA nursing-home patients suffered more pain and bedsores than those in private nursing homes and that, in general, VA nursing homes scored lower on a majority of quality indicators, including a decline in the patients’ living skills and over-prescription of antipsychotic drugs.

For years, the VA has tracked the quality data of its nursing homes but withheld its findings from public view. Though indicative of very poor quality by the VA’s own standards, the findings evidently did not lead to significant quality improvement.

The House investigation, ordered by chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn), came after bitter complaints from the public and VA patients and their family members, as well as outrage from many in Congress. The VA’s Carl Cashour responded that the VA “on average cares for sicker patients in its nursing homes than do private facilities,” and stated that VA officials “welcome the committee’s oversight.”

The results of the Congressional investigation are scheduled to be presented at a House hearing this fall.

 

As a clinical social worker, or a grad student, have you provided services to patients of VA nursing homes? What has been your experience of quality-of-care and attempts to improve it? Would you consider contacting the House committee investigators?

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