2 Investigators: Will VA Bounce Vets From Nursing Facilities?

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The families of military veterans say their loved ones are being pushed out of the VA centers that promised to take care of them. 

CBS 2’s Dave Savini investigates what is happening to them and what could happen to countless other veterans.

Alicia Johnson’s 90-year-old grandfather, Gerald Diez, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient, was admitted into a VA facility last year for full-time care. He suffers from Alzheimer’s.

“We felt very grateful and honored that he was accepted into the VA home,” said Alicia Johnson. “They take great care of these men. It’s amazing.”

 However, Johnson and the rest of her family became worried earlier this year. They say they were told Diez would have to leave the VA facility in downstate Marion, Ill. 

Ted Staley, Diez’s son-in-law, says several other families were told the same thing.

“We were told that the budget had been cut and there were was no funding for full-time care,” Staley said.

Staley says he was told the facility was making room for new veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Staley says the facility wanted to transition into a short-term rehabilitation center.

 Not knowing what would become of Diez has been difficult.

“We’re scared,” Alicia Johnson said. “We just don’t know what’s ahead.”

Concern about paying for the care of veterans has been growing. One estimate from congressional testimony last fall says just caring for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will exceed $500 billion. There is no special fund set aside to cover this expense.

“People need to stand up and say ‘Look, this isn’t OK, it’s not OK anymore,’” Johnson said. “These men and women have served our country, and they deserve to be taken care of.”

The families tell us it was top officials at Marion VA who told them about the move.         

“We did ask if there were any recourse and they said no, that this policy was enforced and there was nothing we could do,” Staley said.

The concerns of the various families even led to inquiries at the Marion VA by congressional members. Yet when CBS 2 contacted the facility, a VA spokesperson repeatedly claimed no one is being told to leave.

Now, families like Gerald Diez do not know what to believe or if the government he fought for will provide him the care he needs.

“He deserves better. He never asked for anything his entire life,” Staley said.

CBS 2 obtained internal VA documents that say the department is in fact making changes to become more of a rehabilitation and hospice facility. This supports what the families have been saying.

Then, Thursday, a Marion VA official apologized and said employees gave out incorrect information and that care decisions will be made on an individual basis. The VA indicated Diez will not be displaced.

In terms of the funding problems, some experts say a veterans’ trust fund should be created, similar to the one for Social Security, to make sure promised care will be available.

More from 2 Investigators
  • SED

    While the story is very sad, and the VA has gone over and above for this gentleman, veterans who don’t retire after 20 or more years of service are generally only compensated and/or treated for service-connected illnesses. I don’t believe that Alzheimer’s disease can be attributed to military service.

    Had the gentleman retired after 20 years or more of service, he would have been entitled to the same health insurance that all retirees are allowed to join.

    Another thought might be to legislate a guarantee for Purple Heart and Medal of Honor recipients to have healthcare throughout their life regardless of their term of service.

    • Georgia Marine

      First of all, this is a VA home for elderly veterans who can no longer care for themselves. It’s not a heath care issue although any veteran can receive heath care from the VA. You are speaking about two different things. Heath Care for retired veterans is different than health care for veterans.

      As a USMC veteran of 4 years I don’t expect treatment such as this but I can honestly say the sacrifices these men made in World War I, World War II and the others of this magnitude gave more in those 2 to 4 years of service than some of those serving 20 years today. Let’s not forget really what these individuals went through, much greater than we see in our times today.

      As for Alzheimer’s being a service connected issue, the facts are that Alzheimer’s, dementia and PTSD are connected to service for those who served in war. When you spend years blocking out memories such as the ones they have seen, your mind no longer functions as it should which is why it is connected. Studies provide evidence to show Alzheimer’s is greater for those of war time.

      We value your opinion and so does Mr. Diez. After all he is one of those that fought for your freedom of speech.

  • IL Mom.....

    Veterans serve our Country……Get with it Republicans and Democrats protect our Soldiers…….!!!!

  • Centurion

    TAKE CARE OF THE VETERANS…..FUND THE VA HOSPITALS? Surely you jest…who needs the VA…we need to send that money to Israel. Take care of wounded soldiers….THE PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN NEEDS A NEW PALACE….where do you think money will be going…..PRESIDENT KARZAI, WOULD YOU LIKE VENICIAN MARBLE OR TUSCAN ON YOUR NEW PALACE…We, the Taxpayers of the UNITED STATES WANT TO KISS YOUR BACKSIDE AND SEND YOU MONEY…well, the DEMOCRATS want to kiss your backside…the good citizens of the USA just wish you and your country would all die of a vile disease and stop troubling the world with your terrorist brethren.

    Take care of soldiers who have lost arms, legs, eyes, and more? NO WAY…politicians need to add to their retirement account…SORRY SOLDIERS…..BUT THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

  • Roberta Waker

    “A veterans’ trust fund should be created, similar to the one for Social Security, to make sure promised care will be available.” Are you kidding me? Look what our government has done to Social Security and they want to set up a VA fund similar to it? Obamacare is set up for older and sick people to die, the sooner the better, while ILLEGALS get free medical care, food, housing, education, etc. We need to take care of our veterans; cutting their funding is NOT an option any more than it is for Social Security. Wake up, people, you will get old and need care one day and it just won’t be there for you. We need a referendum to get Congress to pay into and collect Social Security and get rid of their lucrative pensions. Vote them all out in 2012.

  • Guest

    There is no money in the Social Security Trust Fund, only an IOU according to the former Comptroller General (top U.S. accountant) and head of the GAO David Walker. There are not enough nursing homes or money to care for all the seniors that are going to need it. We are most likely going to have to take care of our own family members. Alzheimer’s is particularly expensive because they need to be watched 24/7 – they don’t necessarily sleep in the night and can cause havoc. One of my relatives with Alzheimer’s nearly started the house one fire two times. Then this non-violent man became dangerously violent as the disease progressed.

  • Disgusted American

    This is beyond sickening. Our government pours money into how many wars now? Two? Three? More? But it can’t take care of the elderly who gave of themselves and served this country out of patriotism and a sense of honor. These old men and women are among the most vulnerable sectors of society, but it seems that the Democrats and Republicans couldn’t care less about them (all these politicians care about is themselves, it seems).

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