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Pentagon looking into care at veterans' retirement home

March 23, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — In the latest allegations of poor treatment for veterans, the Pentagon said Thursday it was investigating conditions at a veterans' retirement home in the capital.

A medical team went for an inspection Wednesday after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates received a letter from congressional investigators about allegations of a rising death rate and rooms spattered with blood, urine and feces at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington.

The letter also cited allegations of an increase in the rates of residents sent to hospitals and of a case in which a veteran had a bedsore with maggots

"We are going to take every complaint and we are going to address it," said Maj. Stewart T. Upton, a Defense Department spokesman.

Tim Cox, chief operating officer at the home, said the allegations were made by "unidentified critics," were "without merit," and had not been investigated by the Government Accountability Office.

"Of course, this home has experienced incidents consistent with a nursing home environment," he said in a statement, noting that half the residents are older than 80 and many have chronic health conditions.

The 87-year-old with the maggots had refused medical treatment, Cox said. But, he said, that was no excuse, and eight employees were fired after an investigation "showed they failed to meet our high standards of care."

The investigation comes a month after revelations about poor living conditions and bureaucratic delays at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, also in Washington.

That scandal has forced the resignations of three high-level Army officials and led to a review of the vast network of clinics and hospitals run by the Veterans Affairs Department.

The agency, in an investigation made public this week, found those facilities were beset by maintenance problems such as mold, leaking roofs and even a colony of bats.

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