More money for Veterans’ Homes in budget, concerns raised in audit

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    An increase in funding for Veterans’ Homes may have come just in time, as the Auditor General’s Office announced that an audit into the state-run facilities raised “major concerns.”

    On July 13, the Legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf finalized a $31.63 billion budget that includes over $102 million for Veterans’ Homes, a roughly $11.6 million, or 12.8 percent, increase from last fiscal year.

    “The $11.6 million increase in funding for the Veteran Homes includes the cost to carry and provides increased funds to cover general renovations, repairs and the daily operations that further enhance the quality of care for our Veteran population,” said Joan Nissley, a spokesman for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

    The increase comes in the wake of an audit into the state’s six Veterans’ Homes that found a number of problems with the Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs oversight of admissions, waiting lists and grievance tracking problems for the facilities.

    Veterans’ homes, which were established to house state veterans and their spouses, are scattered around the commonwealth and offer personal, nursing and dementia care services, among others.

    “This audit exposes flaws at the DMVA that led to delayed care to Pennsylvania veterans,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale wrote in a press release last week. “We identified problems in its waiting list and admission procedures as well as deficiencies in how staff at veterans’ homes handle complaints about resident care and living situations”

    The audit was conducted between July 2014 and March 2016, according to the release.

    Among its findings, the audit found typographical and system errors caused 14 veterans to be listed in the wrong order on waiting list, including 11 who should have been higher on the list, according to the release. The audit notes that the DMVA doesn’t “adequately monitor” the waiting lists.

    It also found that the policies are “contrary to the best interests of veterans and their spouses,” including those that remove applicants from waiting lists if they cannot move into the facility within 10 days of being accepted and leave beds open despite having spouses to fill them.

    Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan last week said the “DMVA has already addressed or are in the process of remedying all issues identified” in the report, including correcting the waiting list errors and retraining staff.

    “While we understand budget constraints,” DePasquale said in the release, “using all available resources to care for veterans and their spouses must be priority one.”

    “Ensuring high-quality care for our veterans is at the forefront of DMVA’s mission,” Sheridan said, “and the Wolf Administration will continue to ensure we provide this as well as fight for more funding for veterans’ homes.”