Veterans’ Homes, Government-Run Nursing Homes Struggle With Staffing Shortages

​Private and government-run long term care facilities alike are facing historic workforce challenges. State veterans’ homes and other government-owned nursing homes are struggling to find workers and recover after unprecedented staffing losses that occurred during the pandemic. As open positions continue to go unfilled, waitlists are growing, impacting seniors—including our nation’s veterans.
Staffing shortages in state- and county-run facilities from coast to coast have made headlines in recent months:

  •  Redding’s Veterans Home of California currently has a waitlist. Administrator Jessica Koppes said, “As everyone knows, there is a shortage in staff; qualified nursing staff. And we are a five-star CMS-rated facility … We have fantastic folks here but we need more of them.” The facility hopes to add 15 new positions to help alleviate current staffing shortages and increase the number of veterans they can serve. 
  • In New Hampshire, roughly 140 people were on the waitlist for a spot at Hillsborough County Nursing Home, while the facility had 60 beds vacant because of insufficient staff. At Maplewood Nursing Home, a county-run facility, 119 people are currently on their waitlist. While 100 beds are occupied and staffed, 50 are “offline.” 
  • Staffing shortages are the primary reason for low census at the Delaware Veterans Home (DVH). An October census report showed that the facility is only serving 53 veterans (it is now currently serving 58), but has 76 open nursing positions. Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock said that the facility – which experienced a 32 percent turnover rate in 2021 – is struggling to retain its employees due to higher wages offered by other private sector healthcare providers, like hospitals. 
  • County-run Brookside Care Center in Kenosha County, Wisconsin has more than 60 open positions available. According to Executive Director Lynda Bogdala, most of the positions have been open for months with either no applicants or unqualified applicants. County officials were exploring opening an assisted living community, but Bogdala wrote in a report that staffing would be the biggest challenge. 
  • Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs Deputy Executive Director Bob Asztalos said that 34 veterans are waiting for placement, with another 120 applications in progress, but staffing shortages have led to low census at several veterans’ homes. One facility, Port St. Lucie, has 120 beds but only 19 residents. The facilities have resorted to using costly staffing agencies to fill in the gaps. 
Staffing shortages are impacting access to care for our most vulnerable citizens, including our nation’s veterans. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is set to propose a federal staffing mandate on nursing homes this year. “This mandate, which currently neglects to offer any resources, is a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to address the root cause of staffing shortages and will only make our labor crisis worse,” said Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) in a recent op-ed
AHCA/NCAL is encouraging federal policymakers and lawmakers to instead take a comprehensive and supportive approach to addressing the labor crisis. The association has proposed a set of workforce policies​ aimed at tackling nationwide nursing shortages, attracting more caregivers to work in long term care, and supporting career development to improve retention. AHCA/NCAL is also calling on policymakers to fully fund nursing home care and any new government mandates, to help offer caregivers more competitive wages and prevent additional facility closures. 
Every long term care facility, regardless of ownership, is struggling to recruit and retain caregivers right now. Increasing staffing requirements will not solve the labor crisis. Federal lawmakers must step up and provide the necessary resources to help facilities hire more dedicated caregivers. By strengthening the long term care workforce, we can protect access to care for millions of seniors.