Commissioner A No-Show at Vets Meeting - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Veterans Home

Commissioner A No-Show at Vets Meeting

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Veterans groups, including the VFW and American Legion, have plenty of questions about how patients are being treated at the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro.

But their questions remained unanswered. They had planned to meet Monday afternoon with the state's Veterans Affairs commissioner.

But investigative reporter Jennifer Kraus tells us, the veterans now feel they were snubbed.

Veteran John Furgess said, "There's a lot of frustrated folks across the state that thought this was the opportunity to get their questions answered."

Furgess and representatives from the state's many veterans' groups said they want to know what's going on with the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro and why there seems to be one problem after another at the state-run facility.

Another veteran, Ralph Land who's the president of the Nashville chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, said, "We know the Home is open at this point. But, we don't know if the problems are solved."

The meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon at Legislative Plaza was supposed to be where different veterans groups would get answers from the state's Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, but Commissioner John Keys never showed up and didn't send anyone in his place.

Harriett Howard, the Tennessee representative to WAVES, said, "He needed to be here to discuss our concerns. And, it's terrible that he didn't even send his assistant."

Keys' office told NewsChannel 5 that he canceled the meeting because he thought most of the members couldn't attend, but that was news to the veterans at the meeting.

Veteran James Cripps told those who did show up, "It just seems to me like we've been left floundering, by a smug attitude with more shenanigans by state officials."

Veterans said this was the first time, in fact, in nearly 30 years, that a state commissioner has canceled this group's regularly scheduled meeting.

And this one, they said, was especially important because the focus was to be on the Veterans Home.

Mary Ross is not only a veteran and part of this regular meeting, but she also sits on the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board which oversees the operation of the nursing home. She ended up taking the heat from the vets at the meeting, while she attempted to defend the Home's recent history of problems.

Ross told those at the meeting, "The issues that are being reported by the Department of Health, I think, have been exaggerated and that the information that's being put out to the public is not exactly true."

Yet, as NewsChannel 5 has reported, the Veterans Home has been repeatedly cited in the last year for putting patients' lives in danger. The U.S. Department of Justice has an ongoing investigation into the Home. Just weeks ago, the federal government threatened to pull its Medicare funding from the nursing home.

Veteran Furgess said, "To have it even threatened to be closed is a disgrace."

The vets said they just want what's best for those who have served our country. And they just want to help.

Ralph Land, with the Vietnam Veterans of America, said, "What's wrong? Tell us, and then we can all look at it and put our heads together and offer some solutions."

But first, these veterans say they need answers, something they didn't get at Monday's meeting.

As for claims the problems have been exaggerated, the state Health Department says it stands by its inspections.

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