Whitewater care home to lose contract with VA


A team from the Robert J. Dole VA medical center went to Wheat State Manor on Tuesday to let the nursing home’s seven veterans know their options come June when the contract between the VA and the home for the veteran’s care expires. Resident veterans will have the choice to move to a different contracted facility through the VA or to get resources and help from the VA to enroll in Medicare, Medicaid or similar programs on their own funding.

Earlier this week, Wheat State Manor posted a plea on Facebook urging residents to contact the VA and lawmakers to make them aware of what they called “chronic delays” in veteran care services.

“It has all been swept under the rug. We believe that they are retaliating by letting our contract expire in June without renewing it. They are telling our frail elderly veterans that they HAVE to move out and go to other facilities. The veterans are devastated….We have appealed at every level, even a court ordered injunction. The federal attorneys will remove the injunction very soon. We can’t beat them and their unlimited resources,” the post read.

Vietnam combat veteran and purple heart recipient Billy Burns says he will not leave Wheat State Manor. He enjoys ribbing with the nurse staff and his private room he doesn’t have to share.

“I get along with the staff. I joke, play with them. But I don’t circulate well with people because of Vietnam. And getting to know people, and then people die and they’re gone…and it hurts. I don’t want to be hurt. I’ve been hurt enough,” Burns said.

Burns expressed frustrations with the VA’s timeliness in getting him diabetic shoes and socks as well as a test for colon cancer. But the VA said they can only approve requests once they’re filed properly through the nursing home, citing further contract compliance issues. 

Rick Ament, medical center director at the VA cited two failed inspections as grounds for reconsidering the contract with Wheat State. 

“So they’ve got their annual inspection they failed and they’ve got their exclusionary contract investigation they’ve failed and I’m sitting here fiduciarily responsible for the care of my veterans in the marketplace, and we said ‘we can’t continue to pay for care that is unsafe where infection control problems exist for our veterans,” Ament said.

Ament is referring to an infection control citation issued by KDADS. 

In an email to KSN news, Wheat State Manor director Mike Smith wrote, “The infection control issue was a citation by KDADS, not the VA. It was a procedural infraction with no harm to the patient. It has since been cleared by desk review.”

Smith also said Wheat State Manor received $712,059 from the VA in 2017.

“Wheat State is making this sound like it’s a fiscal issue, or a funding issue, but it’s not. If they provided good quality of care or if they didn’t have infection control problems, if I knew my veterans were safe, they’d still have a contract. I can’t be sure my veterans are going to be safe,” Ament said.

An email statement from Mike Smith said the following:

“This issue with the VA and our contract surfaced after we filed a confidential “whistleblower” complaint with the contracting officer. This was regarding excessive approval delays with the social worker in charge of our facility. We know this because text of our confidential complaint was used against us by the offending VA employee. The speed and muscularity of the VA’s response to our complaint is disproportionate to the original issue, suggesting that the VA is doing its best to deflect the impact of its documented failure to serve our veterans and to expose the hospital to public and regulatory scrutiny. The victims in this case are clear. They are the veterans and their families.”

Ament says his staff made veterans aware of their options and that no one would be forced out. 

“This is probably the best contracted nursing home they’ve got…when they wanted to give me a piece of paper I told em no, I’m staying here,” Burns said.

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