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The terms “veterans” and “deficiencies” have gone together like “happy” and “new year” in recent years.

It’s no reflection on the veterans, but on the care they sometimes receive (or don’t) from the institutions our nation and state set up as a form of compensation for their service to our country. The Veterans Administration has seen report after report about shortcomings, with congressional leaders constantly pledging investigations into why care at some facilities have failed to meet expectations.

“Our veterans deserve better” is a phrase heard from editorial writers, from VA officials and from elected leaders. And, of course, they do.

Beyond the national level, we’ve had our share of troubling news from the Fayetteville Veterans Home, a facility that emerged in 2006 from the opportunity created when Washington Regional Medical Center vacated its longtime home at North Street and College Avenue. State leaders concerned about Arkansas’ veterans had worked since the 1990s to find the funding to open a Fayetteville veterans facility to mirror the services then available only in Little Rock. For several years, virtually everyone agreed opening a Fayetteville home was an outstanding idea while everyone also seemed stymied as to how to pay for it.

Then, in 2003, lawmakers came up with $2.4 million as the state’s share for a plan to convert two floors of the former hospital into a veterans home, matching money available through the U.S. Veterans Administration. After several fits and starts, the home accepted its first residents in mid-2006. The veterans have generally loved it, but the home has had its rocky moments.

The financial viability of the 108-bed home was continually questioned in its early days, with some lawmakers backing a shutdown because of higher-than expected costs. Some new residents discovered moving into the veterans home actually diminished the level of care they could get from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center next door. In its decade of operation, the facility has gotten a new director about once every two years through firings and resignations.

It’s little mystery why. Inspections revealed higher-than-average rates of deficiencies, some involving patient care. Billing failures, mismanagement, investigation of neglect or abuse in some patient care and other shortcomings seemed a constant concern.

Finally, in 2014, things started looking better for the facility and its patients after a facility administrator with a long history of private nursing home care was hired. Inspections started showing no citations, or just a few minor notations.

The turmoil continued early this year with another switch at the top of the agency, as veterans home director Kris Schaffer was asked to resign. Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration named a new director, Jay Greene, in June, about the same time the Fayetteville Veterans Home earned a five-star rating from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

About 10 percent of facilities in the state receive the agency’s highest award and it was the first time a state-run veterans home had achieved a fire-star rating.

And the good news continued last month when federal Veterans Administration officials found no deficiencies at all in its inspection of the Fayetteville home.

No deficiencies. Think about that. Inspectors are charged specifically with finding a facilities failings. It’s hard to measure up to such a critical eye. To get a completely clean inspection report is a testament to the work of the people at the Fayetteville Veterans Home.

So, yes, it’s been a tough few years for the facility, but as 2017 begins, it appears the veterans served by this facility are getting precisely the kinds of high-standard, quality care they deserve. Everyone involved in helping to provide course corrections deserves kudos. The charted course seems to have moved the Fayetteville Veterans Home out of the choppy waters in which it sailed for too many years.

It’s great to know the start of 2017 could truly be described as a happy new year for the residents and staff at the Veterans Nursing Home.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

After several years of tumult, recent inspections of the Fayetteville Veterans Home show serious signs of improvement in the care of the veterans who live there.

Print Headline: Great signs of progress

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