Tag Archives: state veterans housing

How I did it: Reporting on COVID deaths in state veterans homes

Photo by Tim Evanson via flickr

Countless media reports have looked at the devastating effects of COVID-19 in private and public nursing homes since the start of the pandemic. However, it can be more challenging to find out how our nation’s veterans have fared: some VA nursing homes are overseen by the federal government, others are run by individual states. As Politico’s executive health care editor, Joanne Kenen writes in this “How we did it,” as more horror stories bubbled up to the surface, it was time to take a closer look. She pulled a team together for a deeper dive into how these veterans’ homes had failed those who had risked it all for our country.

In all my years covering health care, with a significant amount focused on aging — I had never heard of a state veterans homes (SVHs) — basically, nursing homes for veterans.

During the pandemic, I began seeing tweets about high death tolls in these homes (and some good local journalism on them). I got curious and reached out to three Politico colleagues, Allan Vestal, a data reporter with experience investigating nursing homes, Darius Tahir, who covers aspects of the veteran affairs (VA) and our enterprise editor Peter Canellos.

Six months later we produced a 6000-word-plus report documenting how these homes had failed aging veterans who had put their lives on the line for our country. As we wrote, “Soldiers who’d survived battles couldn’t survive the pandemic, as viruses spread through many VA homes that lacked proper controls.”

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