[Madison, WI] – In case you missed it, as veterans endure horrific abuse at the Veterans Home at Union Grove, Tony Evers’ administration is shifting blame, despite previously refusing resources to address the facility’s abysmal quality of care. According to reports by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin Spotlight, veterans at the Union Grove home are suffering from “cruel treatment” while state officials are failing to take complaints seriously.
The veterans home has been cited for 62 violations and been fined $250,000 over the past five years. Yet Tony Evers rejected federal assistance for the facility and told National Guard troops sent to absolve worker shortages that they were no longer needed – and an Evers administration official told a veteran describing his experiences that “no one is making [him] stay there” and that he “[has] choices.”
Our brave men and women who have served our country deserve better than to be told to “suck it up,” but it’s par for the course under Tony Evers’ mismanaged state government.
Read more from Wisconsin Spotlight below:
Evers Administration Fails Veterans
May 27, 2022
Wisconsin lawmakers are expressing frustration and condemnation of the Evers administration following a report showing the state Veterans Home at Union Grove is one of the most troubled veterans nursing facilities in the nation.
The home most recently has been cited by regulators for failing to investigate reports of patient abuse, not giving residents regular showers, infection control and unsanitary conditions, according to a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“The treatment of our heroes at the Veterans Home at Union Grove is completely unacceptable. Actually, ‘completely unacceptable’ doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of how disgusted we are with what is occurring,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) in a joint statement. “These veterans have earned far better than the treatment they’ve been getting.”
Mary Kolar, Evers’ secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, has presided over much of the deterioration at the facility her agency oversees. She blamed a lack of staff and frequent leadership changes for the myriad problems at the veterans home, according to the newspaper.
Vos and Wanggaard said the facility was offered federal aid, but the Evers administration rejected the assistance.
“They are short staffed to this day, and Governor Evers kicked the Wisconsin National Guard out of the home six weeks early, saying they weren’t needed,” the lawmakers said, referring to the deployment of Guard members to help fill staffing shortages. “It’s inexcusable, and a slap in the face to everyone that cares about the veterans in Union Grove.”
U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Janesville) said Kolar’s response to the veteran is offensive.
“The very purpose of our Veterans Administration is to properly serve veterans. Our veterans and their families should be able to receive high-quality care at any facility in our state,” the congressman said in a statement.
Two years ago, Steil called for additional resources to be provided to Union Grove. The Evers administration rejected the help, just as it initially did when the Trump administration offered federal law enforcement support to stop the riots in Kenosha that same year.
As Empower Wisconsin reported, a little more than two months after Evers declined federal support, a COVID-19 outbreak struck the Veterans Home at Union Grove and killed nine residents.
“The response notes that federal officials offered consultation and staffing assistance to the state veterans home in May. That offer was declined until August, after the outbreak occurred,” Steil said in November 2020.
Steil sought a federal investigation into the outbreak in which 28 of 153 veterans in the locked memory care unit tested positive for the coronavirus. Of the nine veterans who died, four were in hospice care prior to the infection.
“For the Evers Administration to now cite staffing shortages as cause of these issues, after his Administration initially refused Federal staffing assistance, is beyond frustrating,” the congressman said Thursday.