Lies about veterans home

On July 12, the governor announced the result of a competitive process to determine the location of a new veterans home to replace the current home in Grand Island.

Because that process resulted in a decision to locate the new home in Kearney, the reaction of dismay and disbelief among many in the Grand Island community has been understandable, and the public debate and examination of that decision is appropriate.

However, what some in the media and others have done since that decision was announced goes far beyond what can be considered appropriate debate of the decision.

Indeed, much of what has been said has been untrue or based on innuendo and amounts in some cases to outright character assassination of the veterans’ home administrator and others involved in the process.

As CEO of the Department of Health and Human Services, under which administration of our state veterans homes falls, I do not usually respond to personnel-related issues because of confidentiality. However, because these statements are misleading and wrong, they need to be corrected.

For example, recordings provided of alleged interviews with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission provided to and aired by KHAS-TV suggest there are current allegations pending with the NEOC regarding harassment and wrongful termination of employees at the veterans home.

No such NEOC cases are pending; the case or cases referred to were filed in 2011 and subsequently dismissed by the commission with no findings against any employee of DHHS.

I have to question the intent of the person providing these old recordings suggesting they have merit.

Additional statements made by Don Shuda, Hall County veterans service officer, are simply wrong. Shuda said that under the current administration of the veterans home, there is a higher turnover rate and more grievances filed during any time he has seen in just more than 27 years.

Grievance and turnover data for the past 10 years does not support that.

During the five years prior to the current administrator’s tenure (2004-08), 33 veterans home employee grievances were filed, with 15 in 2005 alone.

During the current administrator’s tenure (2009-13), the total is 12, with only one filed so far in 2013.

During the same 10 years, the employee turnover rate has actually improved slightly under the leadership of the current administrator. The average annual turnover rate from 2004-08 was 30.6 percent, while the average from 2009-13 was 29.3 percent.

The highest turnover rate was 47.8 percent in 2008, before the current administrator was hired, and the lowest was 21.6 percent in 2010, during his tenure.

The rate fluctuates from year to year and, so far, this year it stands at 30.1 percent. In comparison, the 2011 staffing survey by the American Health Care Association reported that the turnover rate for all nursing facility employees that year was 45 percent.

We always welcome comments and concerns from the public that fosters honest discussion and debate. But allegations knowingly made to or by the press based on inaccurate facts and innuendo have, in my opinion, no place in this discussion and I think fair-minded Nebraskans would agree.

Kerry T. Winterer, CEO
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

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