Veterans home will continue to receive state, federal payments
BENNINGTON — The Vermont Veterans Home has passed an inspection by agents of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and is no longer in danger of losing its certification to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, according to the home's administrator, Melissa Jackson.
The home, which is the only state-run nursing home for veterans in Vermont, was at risk of losing Medicare and Medicaid funding after a series of inspections which identified deficiencies that needed to be corrected. The home was notified about the deficiencies in March and, while they were corrected in follow-up inspections, new deficiencies were noted.
The centers, also known as CMS, notified officials at the home that they would not be able to receive Medicare or Medicaid funding after Aug. 26. However, the home was given another inspection before the deadline.
Jackson said two inspectors from the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living's division of licensing and protection and an official with CMS arrived at the home on Monday morning. Officials at the home were expecting an inspection before Aug. 26 but didn't know when it would take place.
The inspection continued until about 2 p.m. While the home has not been given the official report yet, Jackson said the staff at the home was told they had achieved “substantial compliance” which would prevent any loss of funding.
Losing the state and federal payments presented a serious risk to the future of the home. Jackson said the home's budget was about $20 million this year and Medicare and Medicaid payments accounted for about $12 million of the home's income.
On Aug. 8, Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., hosted a meeting in Montpelier which brought together members of the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin, administrators and employees of the home, and CMS to look at ways to prevent an interruption in the home's funding.
In a statement, Sanders said he was very pleased with the results of Monday's inspection.
“As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I am pleased at the progress we are seeing at the Veterans Home. The veterans of our state and region are entitled to the best quality care possible and that is what the veterans home must provide,” he said.
Shumlin said in a statement that the results of the inspection reflect the hard work done by the home's administrators, staff and board of trustees to “ensure that the Veterans Home complies with federal regulations in delivering quality care to our aging veterans and their families.”
“Those who serve our country deserve a veterans home that honors their service through quality care as they age. Now our focus must broaden to include returning the Veterans Home to financial stability, and I look forward to achieving this with the help of the board, the Vermont State Employees Association and the Legislature,” he said.
Joseph Krawczyk Jr., chairman of the home's board and a retired U.S. Army colonel, called the work done by staff an “absolutely great team effort.” Krawczyk was at the home during the inspection.
Both Krawczyk and Jackson praised the home's staff for their work in bringing the home into compliance with CMS standards.
The Veterans Home still faces some challenges. An independent report of the home's management released on Aug. 8 found friction between administrators and some union employees and recommended some governance changes, although the trustees and the Shumlin administration have been reluctant to accept some of the proposed changes.
The home is also facing a budget shortfall, though Krawczyk said the home is working on increasing its population, or census, through new marketing and possibly by accepting residents from Massachusetts. Jackson said there are also possible collaborations with the Veterans Administration's facility in White River Junction.
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