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Retirement Home Chief: Resident Care ‘First, Foremost’ Concern

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2007 – Resident care is the paramount concern at the Armed Forces Retirement Home here, and allegations of poor conditions “are without merit,” the facility’s chief operating officer said in a statement released yesterday.

Tim Cox responded to the Government Accountability Office’s request that the Defense Department investigate allegations against the historic home in the heart of the nation’s capital that has housed four U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln.

“Because nothing is more important than the safety and health of our heroes, we take these allegations very seriously,” Cox said.

Cox noted that the GAO has not conducted its own investigation into what he called “inflammatory allegations” made by unidentified critics, despite the fact that GAO inspectors recently visited the campus twice on an unrelated inquiry required by Congress.

He acknowledged that the home has experienced incidents consistent with a nursing home environment. Half its residents are over the age 80, and many are frail and suffer from chronic health conditions, he said.

The GAO said patients may be at risk due to health-care problems ranging from serious pressure sores to one case involving maggots in the wound of a resident.

Cox noted that one particularly troublesome incident, involving maggots in the leg wound of an 87-year-old resident, occurred in August.

“Our medical staff discovered it and immediately took remedial action,” Cox noted. He said the fact that the resident had refused medical treatment was no excuse for the incident, and that eight health-care workers were fired after an investigation showed they had failed to meet the home’s standards of care.

The home is getting a close evaluation. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder sent a team of doctors on an unscheduled visit to the campus yesterday to assess conditions for themselves, Cox noted. In addition, legislative staffers are expected to visit the facility to see firsthand the care and security its staff provides. “We welcome these visits,” Cox said.

More than 1,100 enlisted military veterans live at the home, which Cox said offers all the amenities of a retirement community. That’s in addition to an extensive health care system, ranging from a wellness clinic for those who live independently to assisted living to long-term and hospice care.

“We are proud of our home for heroes, and put resident safety, health and security first and foremost,” Cox said.

Congress consolidated the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home here with the U.S. Naval Home in Gulfport, Miss., in 1991, creating the Armed Forces Retirement Home as an independent establishment in the executive branch of the Federal government. The Gulfport home was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and plans are under way to rebuild it by 2010.

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