Capital Clicks

Grassley raises questions about VA oversight of veterans’ homes

By: - August 30, 2021 5:20 pm

Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks on the Senate floor on March 20, 2020. (Screen shot from video provided by Grassley’s office)

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is asking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to answer questions about its oversight of nursing homes for veterans.

Care facilities for veterans are federally supported, but are owned and managed by the states, with inspections and oversight handled by the states and by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

But in 2019, the Government Accountability Office found that the VA wasn’t collecting complete information on all deficiencies within those homes and wasn’t capable of tracking that information to identify any trends related to quality in those facilities.

Grassley now says the VA needs to respond to questions about its oversight of the veterans’ homes.

“Our veterans deserve the best possible care after giving so much for our country,” the Republican senator from Iowa said in a press release. “Unfortunately, it appears that the standard of care and quality controls at many state veterans homes falls well short of those required by other government supported nursing homes. Americans deserve answers and our veterans deserve better.”

Among the questions posed by Grassley: How many state veterans’ homes are inspected by the VA and how frequently do the inspections occur?

In recent months, there have been reports of gaps in oversight that may have added to the COVID-19 death toll in those facilities. At least 77 veterans died in a single outbreak of COVID-19 at a veterans’ home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, prompting employees of the facility to file a lawsuit that alleges a “complete disregard for human life and inhumane working conditions.”

In his letter to the VA, Grassley said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services posts quality-of-care information about “civilian nursing homes” to its own website, CareCompare, but the VA doesn’t do anything similar for the veterans’ homes.

However, the veterans’ homes, as state-licensed care facilities funded with Medicaid dollars, are included in CMS’ CareCompare website, with detailed information published on their ratings, inspections, staffing and any federal penalties for substandard care.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.