Administration asks for $2 million more for Vermont Veterans’ Home deficit

Vermont Veterans' Home

Vermont Veterans’ Home in Bennington has a capacity for 171 patients; last year its daily census dropped to 112. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Budget woes are far from over at the Vermont Veterans’ Home.

The Bennington-based facility, which provides nursing home services for veterans, has an ongoing operating deficit of $2 million this year. Last week the Shumlin administration asked lawmakers on the powerful Joint Fiscal Committee to make up that difference in a budget adjustment after the Legislature already ponied up $1.5 million this year to help the home cover the shortfall.

The $3.5 million annual shortfall at the Vermont Veterans’ Home is in the foreground at the moment. Looming in the background is the specter of much deeper federal cuts.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has set a termination date for Medicaid funding of Aug. 26 if the home can’t remedy standard of care problems at the facility. Inspectors for CMS will be conducting an unannounced survey of the facility in the intervening period.

A loss of Medicaid funding would cost the state roughly $7.1 million a year more, according to Jim Reardon, the commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management. CMS first threatened to pull support last fall for alleged violations ranging from insufficient staffing and mistreatment, abuse and neglect of patients, to failure to provide a safe, sanitary and comfortable environment. Shortly after CMS began an investigation last September, a nurse punched a patient.

The current enforcement cycle has “nothing to do with that at all,” according to Melissa Jackson, the director of the home. CMS most recently cited the facility for expired medication on nursing carts, she said. The federal regulators have also want to see better supervision of patients with dementia. The Vermont Veterans’ Home has one of the best-regarded dementia units in the country.

Jeb Spaulding, secretary of the Agency of Administration, told lawmakers that the administrators and staff are working hard to satisfy CMS standards and training requirements. There is “reason for optimism,” he says.

The daily census for the facility, which has a maximum capacity of 171 patients, has dropped to just 112 last year. Fewer patients means less revenue for the home from private payers and the federal government. Forty percent of the home’s patients are eligible for Medicaid.

The current patient census is 127, and about 240 people work at the facility. The annual operating cost for the home is $21 million.

Other states have managed to make their nursing homes for veterans not only solvent, but profitable.

Spaulding hopes the Bennington home, which is near the state border, will attract some of the 450 veterans who are on a waiting list for Massachusetts facilities. The governor’s office is working with Sen. Bernie Sanders to pursue a licensing agreement that would make it possible for the Vermont Veterans Home to take Medicaid patients from Massachusetts, he said.

“The governor wants to do what we can to make the veterans home sustainable,” Spaulding said.

The Legislature authorized an independent study of the management practices and costs associated with the Bennington home, the results of which should be available later this summer.

The employees of the home are state workers. Personnel makes up 80 percent of the costs associated with operating the facility.

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that the CMS investigation of the Vermont Veterans Home began after a nurse punched a patient. The probe began before that incident.

Anne Galloway

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9 Comments on "Administration asks for $2 million more for Vermont Veterans’ Home deficit"

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2 years 11 months ago
It is not correct that CMS inspections were initiated as a result of an incident with a nurse and an altercation with a patient. In fact, VVH had already been cited and failed to comply with its plan of correction by the time the incident you write about occurred. Incidentally, the nurse you write about reacted after a patient caused him severe pain when the patient essentially grabbed his genitalia. Adult protective services found no evidence of abuse and after 26 years of caring for our veteran’s the nurse was returned to employment having received many letters of support for… Read more »
Winifred Rose
2 years 11 months ago
I have worked at the Vermont Veterans Home for 15 years and never has the facility been at risk of loosing funding and yet this has happened twice under the current management. We have received multiple citations as a direct result of the poor decisions of management. The frontline workers care for the veterans and perform their jobs well. Management continually states that we can’t get admissions because of the bad publicity,,,funny the facility being at risk of loosing CMS funding twice and the multiple citations that are the fault of the management wouldn’t have anything to do with it.… Read more »
Rachael Fields
2 years 11 months ago
In April of last year, several members of VVH administration and Nursing Leadership were found by the investigating state surveyor to have knowingly broke federal and state regulations by making the decision to have an unlicensed employee administer medication to a resident at an appointment. We were cited for that. The management made a plan of correction and failed to follow through on it making a very similar decision and causing another citation. CMS threatened to pull our funding then and that was long before the incident mentioned above with the nurse. However, as usual, rather than take responsibility, they… Read more »
joanie maclay
2 years 11 months ago
We, the citizens who have enjoyed the many freedoms today that have been fought for by our men & women of the various military forces…owe to each of these men & women not only our thanks, but our gratitude. We can show this by always providing them with a safe and caring haven known as the Vermont Veteran’s Home. Many of these Veterans do need skilled care in a setting such as that provided at VVH. We have another Veteran’s facility located in Vermont. Has thought been given to these working in concert? Not becoming one, but working to provide… Read more »
Heather Elwell
2 years 11 months ago
I have worked at VVH for just a couple months short of 2 years. The staff works hard, yet are forced to work harder. This article claims to have 240 employees to the 127 vets residing there, yet I dont see the numbers on a divided basis as far as how many make up dietary, activities, vcas, housekeeping, laundry, department heads, etc. Not all of the 240 employees are allowed to provide hands on care and its illegal for such unlicensed employees to do so. We are so short of funding, yet, there are monies found to contract out employment… Read more »
Heather Elwell
2 years 11 months ago
I have worked at VVH for just a couple months short of 2 years. The staff works hard, yet are forced to work harder. This article claims to have 240 employees to the 127 vets residing there, yet I dont see the numbers on a divided basis as far as how many make up dietary, activities, vcas, housekeeping, laundry, department heads, etc. Not all of the 240 employees are allowed to provide hands on care and its illegal for such unlicensed employees to do so. We are so short of funding, yet, there are monies found to contract out employment… Read more »
Dawn Keus
2 years 11 months ago
I have worked at the Vermont Veterans home for over 20 years and in all of my years of employment there have never felt so abused by administration. Let the facts speak for themselves. Management and management alone is what made the VVH a special focus facility as CMS calls it. That means everything we do is put under a magnifying glass to be inspected. Management earned us this title by their mistakes and wrongdoings over the past two years. Nobody is perfect and mistakes are only human, but it’s time to stop making scapegoats of the staff who work… Read more »
Heather Elwell
2 years 11 months ago
my comment above was somehow cut short. but it adds more of a workload of the nurses that arent able to have that other nurses help. it would be nice to staffed not only based on the state minimums, but also the vets acuity. lets face it, some patients either demand more attention or truly require more time and attention. this leaves those who see the hustle and bustle going on not wanting to ask for more. There was a vet that needed to go to the bathroom today and he said to me ” I dont want to be… Read more »
Kathy Callaghan
2 years 11 months ago

Bravo to the VVH nurses and staff for speaking up and providing the public with detailed information about the disastrous conditions at the home.

NOW will the VVH Board of Trustees and the Administration do something about the lack of competent leadership? Aren’t they the least bit embarrassed to ashamed to be allowing this mess to go on at the expense of our vets? Throwing more federal money at it isn’t the answer. Pay somebody whaevert it takes and get a competent director in there. The situation is shameful and totally unacceptable.

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