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Vermont Increases Oversight For Veterans Home in Bennington

The Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington will receive stricter state oversight, following a controversy earlier this year that nearly cost the home millions in federal funding. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

Earlier this month, Vermont’s Division of Licensing and Protection, under the Department of Aging, Disabilities, & Independent Living, classified the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington as a “Special Focus Facility.” Fran Keeler, of the Division of Licensing and Protection, says that federal policy requires all states to designate centers under the title.

The facility will receive additional surveys from Division of Licensing and Protection at about 6-month intervals to the average 1-year interval for a non-special facility. The Vets home will continue to be monitored until the facility “graduates” from the program.

Earlier this year the Home was faced with a choice, to either fix deficiencies outlined by the Division of Licensing and Protection – including instances of a lack of quality care, and management of staff - or lose all federal funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services . In September the Home passed its final inspection, preventing a loss of over $10 million in federal funding – cost that would have been shifted to the state.

Fran Keeler said that while not directly related, the deficiencies were a contributing factor for the Veterans Home’s selection.

Melissa Jackson, Administrator at the home, said that she wasn’t surprised to see the designation when she was notified earlier this month, and that she is confident that the home can prove itself in providing quality care.

Jackson also said that she will share the letter from the Division of Licensing and Protection with staff.

Jackson said that many of the deficiencies discovered at the home can be attributed to scheduling conflicts. She said that the home administration has met with the staff and worked with consultants to find solutions.

But Doug Gibson, spokesman for the Vermont State Employees Association – the union which represents home employees, said that staffing remains the main issue, and that through negotiations, the home has been unwilling to address staffing numbers. The lack of movement, he believes, paints a bleaker picture for the future of the home.

Jackson said that home will continue making improvements for its staff and for veterans.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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