Warren Joins Tester, Colleagues in Urging VA Take a “Proactive Role” in Ensuring Quality Care at State Veterans Homes
Following cases of horrific negligence at State Veterans Homes, senators call on VA to step up its monitoring and support of long-term care facilities to better protect veterans during COVID-19
Washington, D.C. — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.), along with Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i), in calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to step up its monitoring and support of these long-term care facilities, to better protect the health and lives of veterans—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their letter follows cases of horrific negligence at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and other State Veterans Homes (SVHs) nationwide.
“As the nation’s largest integrated health care system, the Department of Veterans Affairs should commit to taking a more proactive role in protecting the health and lives of all veterans in nursing homes, especially those who reside in State Veterans Homes,” the senators wrote to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “…These nursing homes have been the site of many deadly outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic. While operated by the states, VA has legal authority from the CARES Act to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), supplies, and assistance to State Veterans Homes, and should play an active role in supporting those facilities for the sake of veterans who rely on them for care. VA also has a duty to oversee the quality of care at State Veterans Homes.”
For months, State Veterans Homes have been particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, often lacking the infection control expertise, staffing, and PPE to appropriately respond to this deadly virus. The most glaring example of this negligence has been at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts, which resulted in the deaths of 76 veterans. In the last few weeks, two former leaders of the Holyoke home were indicted on charges of criminal neglect and serious bodily injury resulting from the outbreak. Months after the Holyoke outbreak, VA officials found similar health and safety risks for veterans at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, Hawaii.
The senators continued, “Veterans and their families should be able to count on the Department to monitor the quality of care at State Veterans Homes, especially during this deadly pandemic when residents are most vulnerable. We ask that you take swift action to assess the needs of State Veterans Homes and work with the states to provide assistance to keep veterans and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Warren has been working to ensure veterans are protected from this highly contagious and deadly virus.
- On April 3, 2020, she led a letter with other members of the MA Congressional delegation to the Veterans Affairs (VA) New England Healthcare System seeking additional VA resources to help State Veterans Homes (SVHs) stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent similar outbreaks at VA-operated long-term care facilities across the Commonwealth.
- On May 5, 2020, Senators Warren, Tester, Markey, and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) also requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review oversight by the VA of quality of care at State Veterans Homes. On May 14, the GAO agreed to conduct this investigation.
- On June 24, 2020, Senator Warren released a statement on the completion of the independent investigation in the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
- On June 26, 2020, Senator Warren led a letter with Senator Markey and Representative Ayanna Pressley to Governor Charlie Baker requesting an independent investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak at Chelsea Soldiers' Home (CSH).