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Veterans in Nursing Homes – COVID-19 their Deadliest Enemy

As of April 21, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported more than 5,500 confirmed coronavirus cases in 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Of those cases, over 350 veterans have died from COVID-19, according to VA data, which is more than 6% of those infected. The VA does not disclose individual data for their community living centers (CLCs), similar to nursing homes, but rather calculates its rates by health care system or VA medical center.

The tragedy that unfolded back in early March at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington demonstrated how extremely vulnerable nursing home residents are to COVID-19. The horrors of this tragedy have been repeated around the country with thousands of nursing home residents having died from complications of the coronavirus. VA nursing homes, while rated high in VA health inspection reports, have not been exempt from devastation.

Just over a month ago, the VA began an isolation strategy that barred outsiders and suspended the majority of new admissions from their 134 nursing homes across the country. The only exception to the rule was – when a patient was expected to die – soon. Other precautions that the VA has taken include, encouraging patients to use telehealth services if available and expanded screening.

Veterans have suffered the most at state-run long-term care facilities, which have been hardest hit by the coronavirus. Managed by the state of Massachusetts, the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke saw over 50 of its 250 residents die from COVID-19 in the past month. That equates to a death rate of over 20%.

Due to large scale outbreaks and high death rates, some states have deployed their local National Guard troops to facilities. After more than 10 veterans had died and over 19 health care workers had tested positive for the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, 30 National Guard members were deployed to its Southeastern Veterans Center facility in Spring City. Overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the nursing home is just 1 of 6 extended-care facilities.

Amid worsening outbreaks in New Jersey, 40 National Guard troops, 25 NJ Department of Health nurses, and 90 VA nurses were deployed to 2 of its veterans facilities. At the nursing home in Paramus, 155 residents had tested positive and 39 had died, a death rate over 25%. At the facility in Edison, 86 veterans had tested positive and 25 died, a death rate of 29%.

“Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a written statement. “Nursing home reporting to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is a critical component of the go-forward national COVID-19 surveillance system and to efforts to reopen America.”

Nursing home reporting remains inconsistent across various facilities and states. It was not until April 19 that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ordered nursing home facilities to inform residents and their families about COVID-19 cases inside. This followed similar orders in California, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and other states.

In an effort to help one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations combat this virus, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official told ABC News that FEMA is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and CMS to gather COVID-19 infection data from nursing homes to understand the scope of the problem and develop solutions.

The Injured Veterans legal team at Gordon & Partners is here for military veterans and their families. Please contact us immediately if you or your family have experienced nursing home abuse or if your family feels a wrongful death has occurred at a VA community living center or nursing home. In addition, if you are having difficulty with your claim or you are not receiving the disability benefits to which you are entitled, call us at 1-888-231-9144 or fill out the form on this website.

Read the full article here: https://www.the-hospitalist.org/hospitalist/article/221098/coronavirus-updates/covid-19-strikes-hard-state-run-veterans-nursing