December 5, 2021

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VA statistics show catastrophic Covid tolls at veterinary nursing homes

The Department of Veterans Affairs has for months claimed that there is no legal obligation to give a household breakdown of death and infection, but as some states have done, the Department of Veterans Affairs does so voluntarily. There was nothing to prevent it. It changed that policy on Thursday.

Citing pressure from Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to report “COVID-19 related information” to both the VA and CDC on its website, and the Department of Veterans Affairs publishes it weekly. Said to start.

“VA currently offers a downloadable spreadsheet containing individual SH reports,” the agency said in a statement. “VA also displays graphs showing resident and staff cases and mortality trends.”

The Medicare and Medicaid Service Centers oversee most, if not all, homes. Refused to publicly report data on housing outside its jurisdiction. Homes like Assisted Living Centers rather than full-fledged nursing homes are not monitored by the CMS, and these Covid counts remain sparse in the first data batch of VA’s new public spreadsheet. Currently, many report zero deaths, but the Department of Veterans Affairs emphasized that numbers are still being submitted and reviewed so that the charts are updated.

However, some of these supported living facilities did not need to report their numbers until February 2021, so they may show little or no deaths. By that time, vaccinations were available and the case was depressed in the care environment. They did not need to report previous cases from 2020.

“We saw too many unacceptable deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic across state veterans’ homes. VA is responsible for overseeing the quality of veterans’ care at these state-owned facilities. I have to bear it, “said John Tester (D-Moon), chairman of the Senate Veterans Commission, in a statement. “That’s why my colleagues and I encouraged VA to provide public data on state veterans’ homes to increase transparency and meet safety standards for nursing homes.

August, POLITICO Published a 5-month survey Due to defective surveillance, high case loads, and lack of transparency in veterans’ homes in these states. Houses funded under the Department of Veterans Affairs, but specifically dedicated to caring for senior U.S. Veterans run by the state government or the contractors they hire, are about to expire by the state and federal governments. He blamed others and suffered from a lack of surveillance.

The results were disastrous, according to partial data collected by POLITICO. This shows that the per capita mortality rate in state housing is much higher than in similar facilities operated by VA itself. However, at least 46 of the 158 state veterans’ homes did not provide data, so the true extent of the pandemic damage was not available. Neither the families of the inhabitants who died at home, the veterinary advocacy groups, nor the media really knew what was happening in the house.

Since the end of summer, POLITICO has often repeatedly contacted all homes that were missing from the CMS Nursing Home website. Some have been happy to publish data on infections and deaths. Others simply ignored the question or request. Much of the data holdouts were in states that were hit particularly hard by the delta waves last summer, such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri.

As of Friday, some data for these homes is still missing from the spreadsheet on the VA website, but VA said it is working to validate state data and close the gap.

Members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate Veterans Commission have proposed to VA to publish the data. As part of the huge spending package in late 2020, Congress included a statement requiring disclosure by the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, VA has previously argued that accurate representations of its measurements require only country-by-country tabulations, not home-by-home reports. Hill staff said the intention was clear and they were discussing a more complete response with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Under pressure, VA changed that mindset. The data was posted on the VA website on Thursday. It also includes data on vaccination rates for state veterans’ homes.

Data black holes were part of the larger issue of monitoring and accountability for these homes. Growing out of the need to accommodate the dilapidated Civil War veterans, state homes have long served and respected the country’s veterans on their last day. The state accepted the need to take care of veterans, but the federal VA gradually took over the funds. Still, only one annual inspection was required to ensure that the home was following proper health and safety procedures, and the inspector was not authorized to order changes. Some states specifically refused to force veterans’ homes to follow the procedures required for private nursing homes. Others did not require high-ranking home overseers to gain experience in medical care and services to the elderly.

Therefore, when Covid-19 was first infected in early 2020, some homes in vigilant states, such as California, were doing pretty well. There were catastrophic outbreaks in many other homes.

Following the summer POLITICO report, Senator Charles Ernest Grassley (Republican Party) on August 30 Requested from the Department of Veterans Affairs Address questions about quality of care, infection control, and monitoring.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs regularly provides the Department of Veterans Affairs with over $ 1 billion annually to cover all or part of the care of Veterans,” Glasley addressed to Veterans Secretary Denis McDonough. “. Spending. “

“Our veterans deserve the best possible care after making a significant contribution to our country,” Grassley said in a statement at the time. “Unfortunately, standard care and quality control in many state veterans’ homes seems to be far below what is needed in other government-sponsored nursing homes.

The lack of transparency of the Department of Veterans Affairs was frustrating for some veterans’ supporters, but it was not surprising. Linda Schwartz, a former State and Federal Department of Veterans Affairs official, sought to write a report with the Vietnam Department of Veterans Affairs on the state’s housing performance during last year’s pandemic.

“I thought this was easy, but it wasn’t,” she said. “VA has a wake-up call. They thought everything was weird, but it’s not.”

Joanne Kenen is a Commonwealth Foundation journalist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

VA statistics show catastrophic Covid tolls at veterinary nursing homes

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