Senator Jones calls for full transparency after troubling reports of poorly performing VA nursing homes in Alabama

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) today (June 19 2018) filed an amendment that would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit an annual report on or before November 11 (Veteran’s Day) to the U.S. Congress on the ratings given to VA-run nursing homes. Senator Jones proposed the amendment to H.R. 5895, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that is currently being considered on the Senate floor. The amendment follows on a story published in USA Today this week which showed very poor ratings for the VA nursing facilities in Tuscaloosa and Tuskegee, Alabama. Senator Jones’ amendment is cosponsored by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

“Our veterans deserve better than this. As the son of an elderly veteran, learning that out of 133 VA nursing homes nationwide, Tuscaloosa and Tuskegee both rated well below standards our veterans deserve was quite frankly shocking and we need to get to the bottom of this issue,” said Senator Jones. “Alabama prides itself on being as veteran-friendly as any state in the nation, but our veterans and their families need full transparency about these facilities so they can make the best health care decisions for themselves. That’s why I’m proposing this annual report requirement for the VA, which will help meet the President’s stated goal of greater transparency for the agency and better care for our nation’s veterans.”

“The VA must be transparent about the quality of its nursing homes and the care they provide,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This legislation will help assure that VA nursing homes are offering the highest quality of care to veterans and hold the VA accountable to the veterans and family members it serves.”

“These rankings are appalling,” said Senator Brown. “VA must release this data so we know where these homes are failing and how to improve care for our veterans.”

“When our veterans return home they deserve the absolute best care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is deeply troubling that the VA does not share the evaluations of their nursing home facilities with veterans, their families, and Congress,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to support this amendment to create an annual report that would ensure veterans have full access to information on the quality of VA nursing home facilities. Transparency is critical to ensuring our veterans and their families can feel confident when enrolling in nursing home care. We need to make sure that veterans and their families have a standard of care that is worthy of their sacrifice.”

“Our veterans have dedicated their lives to serving our country and deserve the very best care we have to offer, and this legislation will help ensure that’s exactly what they get,” said Senator Nelson.

The amendment would require the VA to submit an annual report to Congress by November 11th of each calendar year. It would require detailed data sets to be shared about short-term and long-term care furnished by VA nursing homes, specifically addressing: pain, ulcers, use of anti-psychotic medication, use of catheters, patient well-being (fall or major injury), ability to perform daily activities (eating, bathing, using the restroom), physically restrained patients, and patients with urinary tract infections. This data is not currently available to the public.

According to recent reports the Jones legislation passed the Senate on June 26. The amendment, which was included in H.R.5895, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, passed the Senate on an 86-5 vote and was supported by Sen. Richard Shelby.

“Our veterans deserve better than this. As the son of an elderly veteran, learning that out of 133 VA nursing homes nationwide, Tuscaloosa and Tuskegee both rated well below standards our veterans deserve was quite frankly shocking and we need to get to the bottom of this issue,” said Jones in a release.

The legislation had already passed the House and Jones’ camp expressed confidence that his amendment will be included in the final version of the bill on President Donald Trump’s desk.

As of today, August 7, 2018,  H.R. 5895 has passed both the House & Senate and is in the process of resolving differences before going to the White House.