Big Decisions Ahead For Veterans Home

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The Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington faces some crucial decisions and deadlines in the next week or so. The Veterans Home is hoping for an inspection this week that could offer one more chance to keep its federal certification.

But after an incident in which a caregiver at the home broke a resident’s nose, the agency that governs Medicare and Medicaid says there’s no guarantee.

A September 18 letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says the nursing home’s provider contract is terminated, effective Friday.

But Veterans Home board chair Joe Krawczyk says state officials have talked to the agency. And he says they’ve ascertained that the home has until Friday to correct the problems. And the funding wouldn’t end until a month later.

"The only thing that’s suspended right now," Krawczyk says, "is Medicare and Medicaid for new admissions. We are still being funded for the residents there. We’re pending decertification if we haven’t made substantial progress on what CMS wanted. But if we get decertified, we will still be funded until the 28th of October."

Medicare and Medicaid account for more than half of the state-run nursing home’s revenues, or about twelve million dollars annually. Officials have said the home couldn’t run without that funding.

Even before the alleged assault of a patient on September 11, the home was facing possible decertification due to problems dating back to March of this year. A visit from the state survey team early this month found four new problems, along with one still uncorrected from May.

Problems range from failure to report derogatory names written by a caregiver on residents’ charts to improper dressing of wounds.

Melissa Jackson, the home’s administrator, says consultants hired by the state have been helping to educate staff. They’re also reviewing the home’s procedures and policies.

Jackson says everyone at the home is pulling together in order to stay open.

"Our eyes are focused on, ‘What do we need to do to get back in compliance?’" Jackson says. "And then going forward, how are we going to maintain that compliance so we’re never in this situation again."

The home’s assistant administrator was fired last week. Trustees won’t disclose the circumstances of that dismissal, or say whether more pink slips are coming.

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