• In 2017, the VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System facility in Marion was
    one of 60 veterans’ nursing homes across the country to receive
    the lowest ranking of one out of five stars.
  • The Indiana facility rated worse on more than half of 11 key quality of
    care and staffing indicators ranked by the Department of Veteran Affairs’ system.
  • The quality of care score conclusions were released by national news outlets
    on June 25, 2018 after internal government documents revealed the VA had
    been tracking and unjustly withholding data on the quality of care received
    at VA nursing homes for years.
  • Administrators of the Indiana nursing home say VA patients have more complex
    medical and behavior conditions than typical residents of nursing homes
    such as mental illness or terminal illness, making it more challenging
    to provide a comparison of quality measures against private sector care

Hidden Data Says Veterans Suffer at Marion VA Facility

On June 25, national news outlets
USA Today and
The Boston Globe, published data showing that the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA)
had been tracking and withholding statistics on the quality of care provided
at VA nursing homes. The ‘hidden’ information included data
from internal DVA documents of 133 VA care facilities and the more than
46,000 patients who reside there.

The reports show that more than two-thirds of U.S. VA nursing homes were
“more likely to have issues related to serious bedsores and residents
who will suffer serious pain, than their counterparts in private nursing
homes across the country.” VA officials in general are not in agreement
with the news outlets’ findings and also say that its nursing home
system, overall, “compares closely” with private nursing homes.

The VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System facility in Marion was one of
the lowest ranking nursing homes in the country earning just one out of
five stars overall at the time of review (December 2017) and scored significantly
worse than their private counterparts on nine of 11 key indicators, including:

  • the number of residents in pain is nearly double national averages
  • rates of use of anti-psychotic drug prescriptions are significantly higher
    than other VA centers
  • residents’ general deterioration of physical or mental functions
    from admission to discharge again ranks below quality standard measures

The 180-bed Marion facility, which serves an average of 88 veterans a day,
received 2 stars overall, 2 for quality of care, 5 for staffing and 1
for unannounced on-site surveys.

Since the decision by the news outlets to publish the data, the VA has
begun to release information and update the public by providing some of
the once hidden care ratings on its website. The Marion home has now moved
from the one-star care rating to an improved, yet still dismal two-star
facility and local lawmakers have made several scheduled stops to tour
the veterans care center. The agency is yet to release more detailed information,
such as rates of infection and injury and continues to respond to the
low ratings stating VA nursing homes “serve a much higher proportion
of residents with conditions such as prostrate obstruction, spinal cord
injury, mental illness, homelessness, PTSD, combat injury, terminal illness
and other conditions rarely seen in private nursing homes.”

Our attorneys always suggest family members do a fair amount of research
before picking a facility for their loved one. This new information may
be a helpful resource.

Neglect of Nursing Home Patients All Too Common in Indiana

VA centers aren’t the only care communities lagging behind with low
quality ratings though. Indiana’s long-term care has long been ranked
as some of the worst in the nation because of understaffing, high eviction
ratings, inadequate training, heavy use of chemical restraints, over-worked
and underpaid employees, all factors contributing to overall negligent care.

Sadly, the abuse and neglect issues that occur at nursing home or care
facility leave residents ignored, disregarded, and isolated against their
will and some abuse can be as extreme as assault and battery. Neglect
occurrences have also been reported when a resident has been withheld
basic needs like food, water, and medication as well as staff failing
to change bedding or take care of hygiene needs or protect against falls.
These types of abuse and neglect will always be damaging to a nursing
home resident and leave lasting impacts on the quality of physical and
emotional health to all involved.

Family members and nursing home staff can look for abuse and neglect signs such as:

  • unusual bruising or bleeding
  • open wounds, or bed sores
  • cuts, burns and abrasions
  • sudden and unexplained change in weight
  • soiling, poor hygiene, smell of urine or feces
  • infections
  • loss of hair
  • torn, stained, or bloody clothing or bedding
  • emotional distress

Less obvious signs may be:

  • listlessness or unresponsiveness
  • infantile or other strange behaviors
  • physical or emotional withdrawal
  • disappearance of personal items
  • sudden and unusual financial transactions

If you sense abuse is occurring or a resident has started to show signs
of neglect, document everything and always notify the facility management
and demand action. If necessary, remove your loved one, contact an attorney
or local ombudsmen, and report any wrongdoing to authorities. Nursing
home staff are protected from whistleblowing issues with care and should not fear
reporting any occurrences of neglect of abuse.

While there are several top care providers throughout the state, our experience
has proven there are more mediocre or downright scary facilities here
in Indiana, including the VA home in Marion. It will be up to you to keep
long term care leaders accountable to ensure your loved ones are taken care of.

Veterans Deserve Better

It may be extremely difficult to think of a veteran in a nursing home not
being properly cared for, but this data shows it is happening. If a loved
one is showing signs of neglect, complains about the care being received
in a long-term care facility or
nursing home, appears altered in emotional or physical ways, or if you fear they have
been mistreated or abused,
Wagner Reese can fight for justice in your situation. Call our offices today at (888) 204-8440
to schedule a risk-free consultation.

Additional readers resources:

  • The USA TODAY and The Globe
    published data here.
  • S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) public nursing home ratings
  • VA Community Living Center (CLC) data is shown for some quality measures
    found on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
    Nursing Home Compare