Veterans' Home deficiency free for two years


BENNINGTON >> For two years in a row, inspections at the Vermont Veterans Home have not found any deficiencies.

It's an accomplishment that reflects directly on a dedicated staff, according to the home's administration.

An annual survey recently completed by the Veteran's Administration did not find any deficiencies at the facility for the second consecutive year, according to Veterans Home Administrator Melissa Jackson. The home also received a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency which administers those programs.

"It's a monumental feat made by our staff," Jackson said on Thursday. She said it's rare for inspectors to not find at least some deficiencies.

The Veterans Home has also been recognized for its programs. Several of the home's programs will be shared as "best practices" by the Veteran's Association, according to Col. Al Faxon, chief operating officer.

The state-run residential and healthcare campus has 130 beds and offers short-term and long-term care for veterans. The campus has an eight-bed domiciliary and a 37-bed certified dementia unit. Services include rehabilitation, medical care and palliative care.

The state's Division of Licensing and Protection (DLP), under the umbrella of the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, routinely carries out unannounced inspections of care providers and facilities on behalf of CMS. In 2012, the home faced losing millions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid funding over inspections that turned up numerous deficiencies. The home was subsequently required to create and follow through with a plan to correct deficiencies.

The most recent inspection conducted on March 22 was to determine if the home was in compliance with federal requirements for Medicare and Medicaid, according to the DLP, and no regulatory violations were found.

"They looked at all of the systems we have in place, conducted interviews with residents and talked to staff, and they found no problems," Jackson said. "In addition, they had no recommendations and didn't have suggestions on things we can improve." Jackson said the home is one of only 11 care facilities in Vermont with the CMS five-star rating. It's also one of only 11 in a 50 mile radius, which includes a tri-state area.

"That's a direct reflection of the hard work our staff does every day," she said.

The home has also been recognized for its original programs. Staff members have spoken at national and international conferences and the programs have been adopted by other veterans homes.

One of those is the home's "Namaste" program, which offers an alternative to medication for veterans who seek pain relief, memory recollection, or a place to calm down and relax.

The home has also been recognized for ending use of restraints or alarms. Both formerly common practices are now seen as "old-school," Jackson said, and the home has replaced them with more modern methods.

An upcoming project set to start this spring will upgrade the facility's food service: A renovation of the home's kitchen will change how food is delivered to residents, Jackson said. Among the changes will be a move from use of hospital food trays to a family dining program,

"Our goal every day is to make this place as close to home as we possibly can," Faxon said.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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