Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Demands Probe Into VA Nursing Home Misconduct

Jun 28, 2018
Press Release

USA Today Exposes Shocking Treatment of Veterans

Buchanan: “A National Disgrace – Heads Must Roll”

Three of Lowest-Rated Nursing Homes in FLA

WASHINGTON Congressman Vern Buchanan today called for an immediate congressional inquiry into shocking allegations of neglect and misconduct at VA nursing homes across the country. 

In a letter to the chairmen of the U.S. House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees, Buchanan called the reports “a national disgrace” and said “heads must roll” for anyone responsible for these inexcusable acts of gross misconduct.

According to an investigative article this month by USA Today and The Boston Globe, nearly half of VA nursing homes across the country received the agency’s lowest possible grade for quality – one out of five stars.

Three of the lowest-rated facilities are in Florida.

Buchanan said in his letter, “Some of the more disturbing reports detail incidents involving a veteran found covered in a ‘urine and feces-stained sheet,’ another in which a veteran’s leg had to be amputated after an infection went untreated for so long that ‘his toes turned black and attracted maggots,’ and one case in which a patient died while an aide who was supposed to check on him hourly failed to check on him at all and instead played video games on her computer.”

The letter continued, “We need real accountability and transparency at the VA, and every agency employee needs to fulfill their mission of caring for those who have served our country. It’s a national disgrace that any veteran should die from negligence. Heads must roll at the VA for those responsible for gross misconduct and negligence.”

That is why I am urging the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to launch an immediate investigation into these disturbing new reports and adoption of tough disclosure requirements to create greater transparency. A congressional investigation should leave no stone unturned in finding out how this happened in the first place and how it can be prevented in the future. 

See letter below:

June 28, 2018

The Honorable Johnny Isakson                                          The Honorable Jon Tester
Chairman                                                                                       Ranking Member
U.S Senate                                                                                     U.S. Senate
412 Russell SOB                                                                           825-A Hart SOB
Washington, DC 20510                                                              Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable David Roe                                                     The Honorable Tim Walz
Chairman                                                                                      Ranking Member
U.S House Representatives                                                    U.S House Representatives
335 Cannon HOB                                                                        333 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515                                                              Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Roe, Ranking Member Walz, Chairman Isakson and Ranking Member Tester: 

I am writing to you today in the wake of new data recently released that details shocking and unacceptable conditions at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) nursing homes across the country. 

According to an investigative article by USA Today and The Boston Globe, nearly half of VA nursing homes across the country received the agency’s lowest possible grade for quality – one out of five stars.

Some of the more disturbing reports detail incidents involving a veteran found covered in a “urine and feces-stained sheet,” another in which a veteran’s leg had to be amputated after an infection went untreated for so long that “his toes turned black and attracted maggots,” and one case in which a patient died while an aide who was supposed to check on him hourly failed to check on him at all and instead played video games on her computer. 

We need real accountability and transparency at the VA, and every agency employee needs to fulfill their mission of caring for those who have served our country. It’s a national disgrace that any veteran should die from negligence. Heads must roll at the VA for those responsible for gross misconduct and negligence.

Furthermore, according to an analysis of data obtained by the newspapers, veterans at more than two-thirds of these facilities were more likely to have serious bedsores and suffer from serious pain than those in private nursing homes across the country. In fact, they maintain that more than 100 VA nursing homes scored worse than private sector facilities on a majority of key quality measures, suggesting that “large numbers of veterans suffered potential neglect or medication mismanagement.”

This is absolutely unacceptable and unbefitting the tens of thousands of veterans served each year by VA nursing homes across the country. 

Also disturbing, the VA is not required to disclose data on the care they provide, unlike private sector nursing homes. Under federal regulations, private care facilities must disclose detailed information on the care they provide, which the federal government uses to calculate quality measures, inspection results and staffing information, which it then posts publicly online.

According to Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, the VA has “this whole sort of parallel world out there that’s hidden” and “information that is not available to people who are looking for a veteran’s home.”

That is why I am urging the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to launch an immediate investigation into these disturbing new reports and adoption of tough disclosure requirements to create greater transparency. A congressional investigation should leave no stone unturned in finding out how this happened in the first place and how it can be prevented in the future. Those responsible for gross misconduct or negligence must be terminated immediately. 

All veterans, including the nearly 50,000 VA nursing home patients across the U.S., deserve nothing but the highest quality care and respect. These recent revelations clearly show that we are still a long way from fulfilling that promise to our veterans. 

I appreciate your steadfast dedication in support of our nation’s veterans and look forward to your prompt response on this important matter.

Sincerely,

Vern Buchanan
Member of Congress