LINCOLN — In an apparent first, Nebraska's veterans homes all reached perfection this year.
Each of the homes — the Eastern Nebraska in Bellevue, the Grand Island, the Norfolk and the Western Nebraska in Scottsbluff — passed its latest federal inspections with no deficiencies.
The inspections were done between Aug. 16, 2012, and June 13.
Gov. Dave Heineman called the achievement “noteworthy” and said it reflects the dedication of the veterans home employees.
“Nebraska has a proud tradition of taking care of its veterans,” the governor said. “Achieving perfect survey scores demonstrates our commitment to providing quality care to veterans.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs sends survey teams to the veterans homes annually. The teams inspect to see how well the homes meet quality care standards in the areas of life safety, resident care, environment, staff training and development and more.
Some of Nebraska's homes have had deficiency-free scores previously.
But John Hilgert, director of the State Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services' Veterans Homes division, said this is the first time to his knowledge that no deficiencies have been found at any of the homes over the course of a year.
Bill Wiley, an HHS spokesman, credited good administration and careful attention to correcting past deficiencies for the positive inspection results. He said the homes had not undertaken any special initiatives.
“There's just an ongoing focus on quality care,” he said.
If federal officials find deficiencies, they require the homes to make corrections within a specified time. Federal officials can take more serious action if more serious problems are found.
In 2006, serious care problems found at the Thomas Fitzgerald Veterans Home in Omaha jeopardized that home's federal support. The Eastern Nebraska home has since replaced the outdated Fitzgerald home.
The state now is looking to replace the Grand Island facility. State officials are evaluating bids from four communities — Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney and North Platte — seeking to house the new central Nebraska home.
Nebraska's four veterans homes provide care ranging from skilled nursing to assisted living for veterans and their spouses. The homes have a combined capacity of 637 beds.
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