I, like most Americans, am deeply concerned about the recent revelations of systemic problems and allegations of misconduct within our U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The men and women who have served our country are forced to maneuver a health-care system with a massive backlog, outdated equipment and, sometimes, dangerously long waits at V.A. hospitals. Federal leaders must find the solutions to fix medical-care failures and meet the needs of our veterans.
While we have V.A. facilities in our State, we also have a separate Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs. When it comes to providing direct care to veterans, our Arkansas department is best known for operating two residential facilities in Little Rock and Fayetteville. The Little Rock home closed in 2012 after the State was unable to afford repairs and improvements to the aging building. Other homes were found for the residents and the facility was shuttered. However, with current funding now approved by the Arkansas General Assembly, plans are in motion to build a new veterans home for Central Arkansas, located in North Little Rock.
The Fayetteville Veterans Home began 2014 with a new administrator, and, this month, has reached an important milestone. The Department of Human Services annually conducts unannounced visits to the home, just as it does to residential facilities across Arkansas. This allows for an accurate snapshot survey of the care being provided and the daily operations at the home.
Earlier this month, DHS's Office of Long Term Care gave the Arkansas State Veterans Home at Fayetteville its best survey results in the history of the facility. There are zero citations involving staff, safety measures or the quality of care provided to the residents. Not only is this result unprecedented, it is especially impressive given the past training and staffing issues the home has had to overcome. Veterans Affairs' leaders say the current staff is more able to take initiative and to solve problems.
There are still challenges ahead in Fayetteville. Now that staffing and morale have improved, leaders are working to increase residency at the Veterans Home and finish paying off previous financial obligations. But as I often say, we need to take a moment to stop and recognize what we've accomplished, then get back to work to address the next issue at hand.
Providing prompt and appropriate care for those Americans who have served our country in the Armed Services will remain a developing challenge as our veteran population continues to grow and age. There are serious issues that must be addressed on a national level that we hope will enhance care in Arkansas, as well. It's imperative that we address the short- and long-term needs of sick, injured, and disabled war veterans and military personnel suffering from mental and/or physical injuries. On a local level, businesses and community groups can work with veterans' organizations to help vets, young and old, in a wide range of areas. It's not enough to just thank our veterans with words, we need to demonstrate our appreciation to those who put themselves in harm's way with our actions, as well.