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Jones applauds passage of legislation requiring the VA to publish annual nursing home quality ratings

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Monday applauded the passage of a bipartisan amendment that he introduced with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, requiring that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) release detailed information about the quality of its 133 nursing homes nationwide.

“Our veterans and their loved ones have given a great deal in service to our country, which is why I was so appalled by reports of very poor ratings and the unwillingness of the VA to be more transparent with this important data,” Jones said. “Having every available piece of information is critical to veterans and their families as they determine where they will live and receive care, during what is unquestionably the most vulnerable stage of their lives. I am confident that this report will help the VA provide the kind of care that our men and women who served our country deserve.”

“Our veterans deserve the best care in all stages of life,” Cassidy said. “For years, the VA has kept the quality data of their nursing homes a secret. While I’m glad the VA recently took steps to address this, we need full transparency so we can hold the VA accountable and provide our veterans with the best nursing home care possible.”

The amendment (S.Amdt.3013) was added in H.R.5895, to the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which passed the Senate this evening. The amendment is cosponsored by Sens. Brown, Daines, Donnelly, Ernst, Gillibrand, Grassley, Heller, Manchin, Nelson, Tester, Udall, and Young.

Jones introduced a similar amendment before withdrawing it and re-introducing an updated bipartisan version with Cassidy.

The senators filed the amendment after USA Today and The Boston Globe published a story which revealed that the VA had secret data ranking its own nursing homes. This information has been kept from the public domain. Almost half of the VA’s nursing homes had the poorest quality ranking. These included the VA nursing homes in Tuskegee and Tuscaloosa,

The amendment requires the VA to submit a report to Congress within 90 days of enactment and then on an annual basis.

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According to the VA’s records: 32.64 percent of VA nursing home residents have experienced serious pain in the last five day versus just 5.59 percent of residents in private sector nursing homes. 20.89 percent of VA nursing home residents are being given anti-psychotic drugs versus just 15.48 percent of private sector residents. 16.7 percent have seen marked reductions in their abilities to perform that activities of daily living versus 14.99 percent in private sector nursing homes. 11.96 percent of VA residents have a catheter inserted versus just 1.88 of residents in the private sector. Catheters can increase the chances of dangerous urinary tract infections. 8.51 percent of VA residents have bed sores versus just 5.57 percent of residents in the private sector nursing homes. Bed sores can largely be avoided by attentive staff moving and repositioning the residents. Residents with bed sores are very high risk for infections and premature death.

The VA ranks their nursing home on a five star system with five being the highest and one star being the lowest.

Jones was elected in a special election on December 12.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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