In the United States, qualified veterans of our nation’s armed forces have access to US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services. This includes medical care at VA hospitals as well as long-term care at VA community living centers. It is unfortunate, however, that sometimes our nation’s older veterans don’t receive the attention and respect they deserve in these government-run facilities.
The Rising Problem of Veterans Elder Abuse
A Veteran’s Affairs scandal swept the national news in 2014 where it was revealed that VA hospitals nationwide were delivering subpar services to veterans. Some former service members were asked to wait months or even years to see a physician or have a procedure done. Some of these delays were even costing patients their lives.
Veterans who were able to see a physician found that they would receive treatment in a VA hospital that was short on resources, understaffed, or both. Because of this, patients received substandard care, and many suffered from abuse and neglect.
The Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) is this nation’s largest federally-funded health care system, which treats approximately 13 million veterans and their single surviving spouses, ages 65 and up. This figure represents about one-third of this country’s total senior population as well as more than 45% of our total veteran population. As more than 7 million Vietnam-era veterans get older, this figure is expected to soar.
In 2000, an analysis was completed that compared the health status of U.S. residents and looked at their health care resources. The study found that the patients in the VA population had poorer overall health, more hospital admissions, and more medical conditions than the general population. Unfortunately, not enough data has been compiled specifically on veterans and elder abuse. In 2010, a GAO report stated that there were hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect, and exploitation of veterans between 1990 and 2010. The numbers that are out there so far seem to indicate that elder abuse among veterans remains largely under-reported.
What is Elder Abuse?
According to the National Council on Aging, as many as one in ten Americans over the age of 60 are subject to some form of elder abuse. This means that there could be as many as 5 million elderly Americans who are abused each year. Even more disturbing is the fact that just one in fourteen cases of elder abuse are ever reported to authorities. When not perpetrated by family members, elder abuse could come from the staff at hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities. Abuse of elderly adults includes:
- Physical abuse refers to physical pain or harm inflicted upon an older adult.
- Emotional abuse can include intimidation, threats, verbal assault, and harassment.
- Sexual abuse occurs when an older adult is sexually assaulted, threatened, or touched without their consent.
- Confinement refers to isolating or restraining an elderly adult for reasons that are not medical.
- Neglect happens when a caregiver fails to give patient necessities that might include food, water, clothing, and medical care.
- Abandonment refers to willfully depriving someone of life necessities or physical assistance.
- Exploitation occurs when someone withholds or misuses a patient’s resources.
Increased Risk Factors for Veterans
While veterans get sick and suffer from common diseases such as cancer and diabetes, they are also at a higher risk for certain issues. These include:
- Substance abuse
- Physical disabilities
Any of these issues, or a combination of them, could require hospitalization in a VA hospital and place an elderly veteran in harm’s way if the facility is not properly staffed or well-run.
Handling Veterans Elder Abuse
If you suspect that a veteran has been the victim of elder abuse, a knowledgeable Connecticut veteran’s issues attorney will able to provide guidance. This may involve taking steps to begin an investigation and contact the agencies necessary to protect your rights. The APEX Law Firm, LLC understands the unique needs of veterans and their families because we are veterans ourselves. Our experienced and compassionate veteran’s issues attorneys have the knowledge necessary to navigate the complex VA system, and we will work to make sure that you receive the care and compensation you deserve.
Our firm handles cases throughout Connecticut. Contact The APEX Law Firm now to schedule a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your case and learn your options. Call our Hartford County office at (860) 900-0900 or visit us online at uptonlegal.com.