House Passes Veterans’ Protection Bill to Increase Accountability for Management of Veterans’ Home

Updated legislation would increase state management and oversight of veterans’ homes

BOSTON – In an effort to ensure greater accountability on behalf of our veterans and their families, State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) and his colleagues in Massachusetts House of Representatives recently passed legislation that makes key reforms to the governance structure of the veterans’ homes, ensures that both homes are federally licensed as health care facilities, mandates increased state management, and provides independent oversight and accountability of veterans’ homes management. 

“This oversight legislation goes a long way in better protecting our veterans who are served by the Soldiers Homes,” said Representative Haggerty. “The inexcusable loss of life at these veteran’s homes during the COVID pandemic shone a bright light on the failings of the leadership structure at these institutions. This legislation, accompanied with the bond authorization to rebuild these antiquated facilities, will help our Commonwealth provide the best possible care for the men and women who have served our nation honorably.”

“An Act relative to the governance, structure and care of veterans at the Commonwealth veterans’ homes” (H.4441):

  • Requires home superintendents to be licensed as nursing home administrators and either be a veteran or someone with experience managing veterans in a nursing home or long term-care facility.
  • Establishes 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.
  • Preserves local, 5-member boards of trustees for the veterans’ homes in Chelsea and Holyoke with the authority to nominate candidates for superintendents of their respective veterans’ homes.
  • Establishes 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.
  • Requires 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. 
  • Establishes the position of ombudsperson for each veterans’ home to advocate on behalf of the residents and staff at the home.
  • Requires 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 establishes a maximum time of 30 days for a veterans’ home to correct any violation that DPH identifies. 
  • Requires that all state-operated veterans’ homes adhere to the guidelines for trauma-informed care as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and be certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
  • Requires the Office of Veterans’ Homes and Housing to submit an annual report including findings but not limited to the quality of care provided at the homes and an analysis of activities of the Office and of the Veterans’ Homes Council.

Following the tragedy at the Holyoke Veterans’ Home in 2020, which resulted in the COVID-19 related deaths of 77 veterans, the Legislature established the Special Joint Oversight Committee on the veterans’ Home in Holyoke COVID-19 Outbreak to investigate and make legislative recommendations. 

In May 2021, the House approved a $600 million bond authorization — with $400 million for the construction of an updated Holyoke Veterans’ Home facility and $200 million to increase geographic equity and accessibility for veterans not primarily served by the veterans’ Home in Chelsea or Holyoke.

“An Act relative to the governance, structure and care of veterans at the Commonwealth veterans’ homes” passed the House of Representatives with a 156-1 vote. It now goes to the Senate.

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