When Vietnam War veteran Bill Nutter checked into the Veterans Affairs hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts, doctors promised his family they would check on him every hour.
The retired police officer had been battling diabetes, respiratory problems and other health issues as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange. According to the Boston Globe, the hourly checks were essential.
Bill Nutter, 68, was a very vulnerable patient, in danger of cardiac arrest at any given moment due to an arrhythmia. He couldn’t get out of bed on his own, and his hands were so crippled with neuropathy as a result of his diabetes that it was almost impossible for him to press the call button if he was in trouble. Plus, his wife said, his voice was barely a whisper after the surgery, and his roommate was deaf. Even if he could have tried to summon help, no one would have heard him, she said.
The family was confident Nutter was in a safe place. After all, the hospital had a five-star rating from the VA.
But one morning, Nutter’s wife, Carol received a phone call. Her husband had been found dead.
Neglect and a Cover Up
Carol says initially VA administrators gave her the impression Nutter had passed away between one of the promised hourly visits. A few days later, they called back with a few more details but still didn’t explain what went wrong. It wasn’t until the Boston Globe started digging that the truth came to light.
Instead of doing her hourly check-ins on Nutter, the aide on duty that night sat at her computer the entire shift, playing video games.
The aide initialed paperwork saying she performed the hourly visits, but confessed after hospital administrators showed her security camera footage of her never leaving her desk.
The Boston Globe also learned that when the morning nurse found Nutter she informed supervisor by making a slashing motion across her throat and referring to him by his patient number instead of his name.
A Pattern of Awful Care
Mistreatment of veterans is nothing new for the Bedford hospital and VA hospitals around the country. The Boston Globe, which has been reporting heavily on scandals within the VA, says:
Whistle-blowers and families of veterans have claimed that relatively healthy patients deteriorate within months after being admitted to the Bedford VA. Others say that veterans living in long-term care buildings on the campus sometimes go without food for many hours, or they’re left in soiled clothes or bed linens. And buildings are laced with asbestos, a Bedford electrician charges, exposing everyone to the cancer-causing material.
The nurse who made the inappropriate gesture was fired, and the aide who failed to provide proper care for Nutter has been suspended without pay pending a review that could end in her also being fired. The VA has launched a criminal investigation to find out if anything could have been done to prevent Nutter’s death.
It’s unacceptable that veterans who put their lives on the line for our country are mistreated by a broken health care system. Reforms are needed to ensure veterans have the options they need to receive the best care possible.
No veteran should be trapped in a failed system. It’s time to give veterans more control over their own health care so that families like the Nutters don’t have to grieve the senseless death of their loved ones at the hands of the VA.
Click here to tell Congress it’s time to let veterans decide for themselves. Tell them to support VA choice reform.
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