Vets Home Gets Off of “Special Focus” List

Article published May 7, 2015

BENNINGTON — A recent inspection of the Vermont Veterans’ Home found no deficiencies, which means it will be removed from a special oversight list for the first time in about two years, according to Melissa Jackson, the home’s administrator.

The inspection was conducted during the week of April 20 by the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living — specifically, by its Division of Licensing and Protection — on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In March 2013, some deficiencies were identified in an inspection, and more were identified during follow-up inspections.

At the time, the home was within days of being denied the ability to accept Medicare and Medicaid payments, which make up about 60 percent of the home’s income.

The home in Bennington, which is the only state-run nursing home for veterans in Vermont, received a last-minute inspection in August 2013 which allowed them to stay open. However, the deficiencies kept the home on the list of “special focus facilities” which must be inspected annually.

The home could not be removed from the list until it received two consecutive successful inspections. Jackson said the inspections didn’t have to be free of any and all deficiencies, but that any deficiencies found couldn’t rise above a certain level.

In 2014, for instance, the home passed inspection but there were some concerns raised about an improperly cleaned ceiling fan in the kitchen and the number of wheelchairs being kept unused in a particular hallway.

The inspection this year, however, was free of any deficiencies, Jackson said.

Joseph Krawczyk Jr., chairman of the home’s board of trustees, pointed out that the inspection from the state’s Division of Licensing and Protection, or “L and P,” was the second this year that found no deficiencies, since the home had also had a successful inspection from the Veterans Administration earlier this year.

Krawczyk, who spent time at the home during the April inspection by L and P, said he was “extremely proud” of the staff at the veterans home.

“They never lost focus. They kept the mission of taking care of veterans foremost in their minds. They just treated the inspectors with kindness and generosity and went about their business and the results were the results,” he said.

Jackson added that she found it hard to describe her pride in her staff.

“(I’m proud of) how hard they’ve worked, how far they have come to pull together as a team over the past few years, and these survey results reflect the hard work they do every day and the great care they give our veterans,” she said.

Jackson said she thought the state inspection, coming so soon after the successful inspection by the VA, showed that the home’s improvement efforts were working and the results were not “just a fluke.”

Now that the home is no longer a special focus facility, Jackson said administrators and staff will be able to focus on new programs and “continuing to raise the bar as far as the quality of care we give.”

Krawczyk acknowledged that while the latest inspection was good news, the home was still struggling with its finances because of the relatively low levels of reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. Krawczyk said the home was going to need additional funding support from the state this year but said he was confident the Legislature and the Shumlin administration would step up.

Jackson said she had been informed of the most recent inspection results, but hadn’t yet received the official confirmation letter. Messages left with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday were not returned.