BENNINGTON >> The Vermont Veterans' Home is celebrating after another inspection did not find any deficiencies.
The home was found to be deficiency-free during a survey last month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, according to Melissa Jackson, the home's administrator.
She highlighted the education and training instituted for staff in recent years and new programs that the home's leaders say set the facility apart from other nursing homes. She also gave much credit to the home's staff.
"They're here for all of the right reasons. They all care about our veterans," Jackson said on Thursday.
Jackson said a five-member team with CMS conducted the inspection on July 18 to 20.
It's the fourth straight inspection with good marks. CMS inspectors didn't find any deficiencies in the most recent survey or one completed in 2015. Neither did similar inspections by the Veterans Administration.
Jackson said that what makes this most recent inspection more satisfying was she and most of the management team were out of the building. She and others were at the National Association for State Veterans' Homes annual conference in Utah.
"Our staff did what they do every day, which is provide exceptional care," she said. "And after reviewing medical records, interviewing residents, family and staff, [CMS] found nothing wrong."
CMS staff commented how personable and earnest home staff were, according to Col. Al Faxon, chief operating officer. Faxon said the close relationship between the staff and residents is what sets the home apart from other nursing homes.
"It's truly a home and a community for folks who live here," he said.
The home was founded in 1884 and is the second oldest state veterans' home in the country. It offers short-term and long-term care for veterans. Today, the facility has 138 beds and 125 residents, meaning it's 90 percent occupied.
The annual surveys are thorough evaluations to determine if healthcare facilities are in compliance with federal requirements for Medicare and Medicaid. While nursing homes like the veterans' home have a general idea when the inspection will take place, the visits are unannounced. If a deficiency is found, the facility is given a citation and told to correct it. The home was told to correct numerous deficiencies after a survey three years ago put its ability to collect Medicare and Medicaid payments in jeopardy.
Jackson said the administration has been dedicated to addressing those deficiencies. Those efforts included new education and training for staff.
The home is now looking to move forward on new projects that include a new pavilion, a kitchen renovation project and a yoga program for residents. Trustees are also considering energy efficiency upgrades to the heating system.
Vermont has a history of stepping up to care for its veterans, Faxon said, and he, Jackson and others want to honor that tradition.
"You can never thank a veteran or active service member enough," Jackson said. "The care our staff provides is another way of saying we appreciate them."
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.