Massachusetts State House Passes Bill Establishing Additional Protections for Veterans and Increases
Malden House delegation voted to increase state management and oversight of veterans' homes
Friday, February 18, 2022 - Last Thursday, Representatives Steven Ultrino, Paul Donato, and Kate Lipper-Garabedian voted to pass a redrafted version of H.4441, An Act relative to the governance, structure, and care of veterans at the Commonwealth’s Veterans’ Homes.
The bill was approved by the House and will make major changes at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home in an effort to ensure greater accountability on behalf of our veterans and their families. The bill includes key reforms to the governance structure of the veterans’ homes, ensuring that both the Holyoke and Chelsea facilities are licensed federally as health care facilities while mandating increased state management and providing independent oversight and accountability of veterans’ homes management.
Other critical changes include:
Requiring 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.
Establishing 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.
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.
“This bill takes significant and much-needed steps to improve how our Commonwealth’s veterans’ homes are run, while also establishing essential protocols designed to address mismanagement as quickly as possible,” said State Representative Steve Ultrino. “We must ensure that a tragedy like the one at the Holyoke Veterans’ Home in 2020 never happens again, and I believe this legislation will help achieve this goal. I am thankful for the work of State House and particularly proud of the Malden delegation standing together to protect our veterans and ensuring they receive the best care possible.”
"H.4441 is an important bill that will increase the safety and level of care for our veterans across the state, and ensures that a disaster like what happened in Holyoke in 2020 never happens again,” said State Representative Paul Donato. “To be able to advocate for and improve the lives of our veterans is one of my greatest honors as a Representative. As always, it was a pleasure working with the rest of the Malden Delegation to get this passed.”
“The importance of this bill was underscored by the terrible COVID-19 outbreak in the Holyoke Home,” said State Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian. “I’m glad to see this bill pass to ensure events like these will not happen again and that veterans have access to quality healthcare and treatment.”
The bill has passed the House of Representatives with a 156-1 vote. It now goes to the Senate.