Jaques: Nursing home staffing mandate misses mark for vets


Earl Jaques is a former state representative for Delaware’s District 27 and a retired brigadier general in the Delaware Air National Guard.

My time serving my country in the Delaware Air National Guard is something that I am most proud of. I hold that same pride for the millions of military veterans across America. I have a profound appreciation for the sacrifices made by our veterans, and I believe it is crucial that they receive support as they age, here in Delaware and beyond.

Unfortunately, the federal government’s proposed staffing mandate for nursing homes has the potential to have a detrimental impact on Delaware’s veteran population if it goes into effect. The welfare of community members should be paramount in any policy considerations, but this mandate overlooks the unique challenges faced by the Delaware Veterans Home and thousands of nursing homes throughout the country.

The Delaware Veterans Home has 150 beds for veterans but has struggled significantly with staffing shortages over the past several years. Despite its best efforts to recruit and retain the necessary workers, there are just not enough qualified staff available right now to fill the open positions. Today, the Delaware Veterans Home is operating at half-capacity because of workforce challenges.

By implementing a federal staffing requirement without providing additional funding or support, the nursing home staffing mandate would do much more harm than good for seniors. It would punish facilities like the Delaware Veterans Home that won’t be able to hire the nurses and nurse aides necessary to meet the arbitrary staffing ratio. A federal mandate won’t create the necessary workers out of thin air.

The worst-case scenario, if this rule becomes final, is that veterans homes won’t be able to sustain operations. Across the country, nursing homes have already been forced to close their doors due to staffing shortages and financial difficulties. The new mandate would make matters even worse. Facility closures lead to residents seeking the care they need elsewhere, sometimes forcing them to travel hours away from family and loved ones.

If this were to happen to our veterans homes, the impact would be devastating. Our veterans rely on these facilities for essential, lifesaving care, and any threat to the future of the Delaware Veterans Home and veterans homes nationwide is a threat to their health and well-being. These residents made enormous sacrifices to serve their country. The least we can do is make sure they have access to the care they need.

This one-size-fits-all mandate is clearly the wrong policy for veterans and nursing home seniors across the country. Policymakers should focus on solutions that provide adequate resources to nursing homes to aid in recruitment and retention. With better federal support, providers will be able to rebuild the long-term care workforce and continue keeping our seniors happy and well cared for.

I spent my tenure as a state representative advocating for the well-being of veterans in the First State, and I plan on continuing to do so — especially when a matter of such great concern is at the forefront. I encourage Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and all Delaware lawmakers in Washington to support the bipartisan Protecting Rural Seniors’ Access to Care Act and work on finding better solutions for the long-term care sector that will protect our veterans and give them the care and respect that they so greatly deserve.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

Members and subscribers make this story possible.
You can help support non-partisan, community journalism.