For years, the VA has secretly been assessing the quality of care of its 133 nursing homes on a one-to-five star rating system. Scandalous results were recently disclosed by USA Today and the Boston Globe: at the end of 2017, fully 60 of the homes received the lowest rating, reflecting years of chronic and persistent inadequacies that had gone unaddressed. And 35 more received the second-worst score, two stars. Bad behavioral healthcare is high on the list of VA failings at these facilities.

The terrible performance of the VA nursing homes seems to have deprived thousands of veterans good or even adequate care; and the VA’s policy of secrecy deprived veterans and their families of the ability to make choices of care based on quality or lack of it. In most categories the VA nursing homes were found to have performed worse, on average, than private nursing homes, especially in the categories of the amount of pain suffered by the residents, and the high levels of anti-psychotic medicines to which they were subjected.

Robyn Grant, director of public policy at the watchdog National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, described the situation as a “sort of parallel world out there that’s hidden. I still can’t get over that this information is not available to people who are looking for a veteran’s home; that’s just unacceptable.”

A VA spokesman, Curtis Cashour, claimed that 60 VA nursing homes had improved in the year 2016-17. By the VA’s own ratings, nine facilities received four stars; only two had five stars.

Have you had experience with residents and families at VA nursing homes? Have you observed the effects of over-prescription of anti-psychotics? How would you suggest that the VA begin to reform its policies with regard to residents at VA nursing homes?

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