Malden Representatives voted to increase state management and oversight of veterans’ homes
On February 10, 2022, Malden’s State Representatives – Steven Ultrino, Paul Donato and Kate Lipper-Garabedian – voted to pass a redrafted version of H.4441, An Act relative to the governance, structure and care of veterans at the Commonwealth’s veterans’ homes. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives (156-1) and will make major changes at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke and the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea to ensure greater accountability on behalf of our veterans and their families. The bill includes key reforms to the governance structure of the veterans’ homes, ensuring that both the Holyoke and Chelsea facilities are licensed federally as health care facilities while mandating increased state management and providing independent oversight and accountability of veterans’ homes management. Other critical changes include:
- Requiring home superintendents to be licensed as a nursing home administrator and either be a veteran or someone with experience managing veterans in a nursing home or long term-care facility
- Establishing a 17-member statewide Veterans’ Homes Council to manage and control the veterans’ homes, promulgate regulations to the local boards and confirm and remove superintendents
- Establishing the Office of the Veteran Advocate, an independent office that will be led by a Veteran Advocate appointed by the Governor, Attorney General and State Auditor
- Requiring the Veteran Advocate to submit an annual report, which will be made public, to the Governor and the Legislature with an analysis of the delivery of services to veterans and recommendations for changes in agency procedures
- Establishing the position of ombudsperson for each veterans’ home to advocate on behalf of the residents and staff at the home.
- Requiring the Department of Public Health (DPH) to conduct and report on inspections of veterans’ homes twice a year, or as often as they see fit, and establishing a maximum time of 30 days for a veterans’ home to correct any violation that DPH identifies
- Requiring that all state-operated veterans’ homes adhere to the guidelines for trauma-informed care as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and be certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Requiring the Office of Veterans’ Homes and Housing to submit an annual report including findings, such as the quality of care provided at the homes – and an analysis of activities of the Office and of the Veterans’ Homes Council.
“This bill takes significant and much-needed steps to improve how our Commonwealth’s veterans’ homes are run, while also establishing essential protocols designed to address mismanagement as quickly as possible,” said Ultrino. “We must ensure that a tragedy like the one at the Holyoke Veterans’ Home in 2020 never happens again and I believe this legislation will help achieve this goal. I am thankful for the work of State House and particularly proud of the Malden delegation standing together to protect our veterans and ensuring they receive the best care possible.”
“H.4441 is an important bill that will increase the safety and level of care for our veterans across the state, and ensures that a disaster like what happened in Holyoke in 2020 never happens again,” said Donato. “To be able to advocate for and improve the lives of our veterans is one of my greatest honors as a Representative. As always, it was a pleasure working with the rest of the Malden Delegation to get this passed.”
“The importance of this bill was underscored by the terrible COVID-19 outbreak in the Holyoke Home,” said Lipper-Garabedian. “I’m glad to see this bill pass to ensure events like these will not happen again and that veterans have access to quality healthcare and treatment.”
On February 14, 2022, the Senate referred the bill to its Committee on Ways and Means.