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WAAY 31 I-Team: Contractor says Huntsville veterans nursing home complaints may come from disgruntled ex-employees

WAAY 31 has uncovered new details about Senator Doug Jones' call for an investigation of the Floyd E. 'Tut' Fann State Veterans Home.

Posted: Mar 19, 2019 6:04 PM
Updated: Mar 19, 2019 7:49 PM

A WAAY 31 I-Team Investigation reveals new information about allegations against the state veterans home in Huntsville. The Floyd E. "Tut" Fann State Veterans Home is accused of neglect and mistreatment of patients.

The allegations may be coming from a pair of terminated employees. According to their former employer, they were terminated with cause and now may have an axe to grind.

Senator Doug Jones called for a federal investigation and is defending this, saying two anonymous sources are enough for him. In his letter, Jones, a Democrat, asked the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to investigate the Floyd E. "Tut" Fann State Veterans Home in Huntsville.

The senator's request cited accusations from two unnamed former employees. The anonymous sources claimed the nursing home neglected and mistreated patients.

In his letter, Jones wrote, “… a local news outlet reported that former employees of this state-owned facility said negligence led to the mistreatment of the veterans in their care …”

The report said the sources claimed to see bed bugs. One source said employees allowed a resident with scabies to freely walk around the nursing home, and the kitchen staff did not stick to some people’s dietary restrictions.

Huntsville’s "Tut" Fann home is part of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs. It told WAAY 31, “We have spoken with Senator Jones’ staff to assure them that we will cooperate with any information needed by his office or the VA Inspector General. Additionally, we have contacted Governor Ivey’s office to request an independent investigation by the Alabama Department of Public Health.”

Senator Jones’ letter goes further. He brings into question the integrity of the inspection process at "Tut" Fann. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs oversees those inspections.

Jones wrote, “… was the 2018 inspection of the facility deeply flawed, or was the evaluation intentionally misrepresentative?”

A three-day federal VA inspection found "Tut" Fann “deficiency-free.” That means the nursing home met all 158 standards the federal government sets for veterans homes. It's the highest possible score.

When we asked Senator Jones’ office if there's more evidence to support the anonymous complaints, they said they’d get back with us. Several hours later, they emailed us and said Jones believes the accounts from the two former employees are sufficient.

“As a former United States Attorney, I believe the allegations that were publicly reported are substantial enough to merit further investigation by the appropriate authority, who in this case is the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General,” Jones said.

HMR Veterans Services is the contractor that operates "Tut" Fann. The company is questioning the motives of its anonymous ex-employees. 

"We believe two potentially disgruntled former employees terminated for cause were the source of this story and it’s misinformation," Rick Heartsill told WAAY 31. "Clarifying information has been provided to the state and federal officials who have requested it. Our company, employees as well as the state and federal officials who regulate our veterans nursing homes care very deeply about our residents and treat them as family. 'Tut' Fann has consistently been recognized as one of the best veterans nursing homes in the country and this intentional effort to harm and mislead the public is terribly unfortunate. We will continue to work with anyone who wants to review operations to ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve."

HMR told WAAY 31 it's eager for the truth to come out and it’s proud of operating an excellent facility.

The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs told WAAY 31 Commissioner Kent Davis took action and visited the "Tut" Fann home as soon as he heard about the anonymous allegations. He visited "Tut" Fann on Monday, March 11. Davis met with veterans living there, their families and employees. Commissioner Davis said he's confident protocols are being followed to keep people who live there safe and healthy.

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