In a press conference Thursday morning, Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Kent Davis presented reporters with a letter from the federal VA which states: “no deficiencies were identified.”
The letter from the federal VA acting medical director recommends Social Services visits and “to ensure the care plans be developed appropriately for residents designated as wandering/elopement risks."
It states “You and your staff are to be congratulated for these results.”
WAFF 48 News has contacted the federal VA and Sen. Doug Jones’ office (D-AL) to get the full report, but was unable to secure it for this publication.
In April, the Alabama Department of Public Health also conducted a survey of the home, where only sanitation and labeling issues were cited.
Davis said the state VA took all the allegations seriously and reached out to both the ADPH and federal VA so the independent investigations would be conducted.
He also said the state VA and HMR Veterans Services (the company that operates the home) did their own internal reviews.
“Our internal reviews and the associated medical records show the Tut Fann staff are and have been providing care to our resident veterans,” he said.
ADPH surveys show the facility has been cited for a number of serious violations in the recent past.
HMR Veterans Services is currently in the bidding process to renew its contract with the Alabama VA to operate the four VA homes in the state.
A current employee, a former employee and a family member of a veteran all called for HMR Veterans Services to be removed.
Davis said the bidding process is independent of the reports’ findings, but the investigations “speak for themselves.”
HMR President Bill Biggs also spoke at the press conference, stating HMR isn’t perfect but it works to correct issues when they arise.
Biggs complemented all of HMR’s staff for their work.
“Our staff members, I can tell you now, I’ll never be able to pay them enough for the job they do,” Biggs said.
A current employee and a current resident both cited under-staffing as issues at the home, and potentially the root of the mistreatment.
The employee said in the days after the investigations last month, staff levels dropped.
Biggs said staffing is a challenge for the home.
“We are constantly looking, are our benefits the best we can provide. What salary increases do we need to put in, and we’re making those changes right now. We’re putting in increases for salary in the next two months I believe," he said.
“We’re working on those to make sure we’re not just competitive, but we try to stay on the top end of competitive.”
He said the company will pay overtime or “whatever we need to do” to ensure staffing levels are adequate.
Biggs claimed the staffing at the home exceeded state minimum requirements. In earlier reporting, WAFF 48 News asked for documentation to support those claims, but none were provided.
He went on to say “there were no real changes” in response to the allegations, but the company did work to re-educate employees where issues were identified.