Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: Veterans Home double-charges disabled combat veterans

By Arlene Violet
Posted 9/24/20

Nothing aggravates me more than folks who give lip service to veterans and then rake them financially over the coals. Such is exactly the situation at the Rhode Island Veteran’s Home. If it …

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Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: Veterans Home double-charges disabled combat veterans

Posted

Nothing aggravates me more than folks who give lip service to veterans and then rake them financially over the coals. Such is exactly the situation at the Rhode Island Veteran’s Home. If it were not for whistleblower John Cianci, a Gulf War veteran and Department Commander of the Italian American War Veterans of RI (and, no, he’s not related to that other Cianci), Rhode Island would still be robbing far too many veterans by double charging for nursing home care. General Rick Baccus who presided over this fiasco, retired in January 2020 but Veterans Director Kasim Yarn is still spinning a yarn when it comes to their double dipping.

The fact is that the Rhode Island VA each month submits an invoice to the U.S. VA for 100 percent reimbursement of the cost of a disabled combat veteran’s care. Meanwhile, the qualifying veteran was also charged 80 percent maintenance fee despite the regulatory prohibition that “no other entity will be charged.” This illegal charge has impacted the quality of life of veterans, spouses, and their families. Because of Mr. Cianci’s complaint, which does not benefit him since he is not a Veterans Home resident, the RI Veterans Home must reimburse at least $5 million to 56 current and former residents, 30 of whom have already died. The next of kin will receive the refund.

What went wrong? Willful ignoring of double dipping.
In Aug. 2019 John Cianci first brought the double dipping to the attention of Director Yarn at a State Commanders meeting. In Sept. 2019 he asked Mr. Yarn of the status of his complaint. In Nov. 2019, when no answer was forthcoming, Mr. Cianci sent a formal letter of inquiry. No answer was forthcoming. In Jan. 2020 at the Governor’s Advisory Committee meeting, he asked Mr. Yarn again, who blew him off by saying he was “getting clarification.” Mind you, Mr. Yarn, appointed in 2016, had a chief responsibility to implement the state’s agreement with the VA which clearly spelled out that no double charge could occur and RI GL 30-24-10 which forbids charges beyond 100 percent of the care and maintenance of a resident. Hearing no response, Mr. Cianci filed the complaint of double charging in Feb. 2020 which ultimately led to the VA Inspector General ordering a refund of $5 million to the VA victims of such malfeasance.

It is hard to imagine that General Baccus and Mr. Yarn didn’t know what they were doing, particularly when the Veterans home ran up a $3 million deficit. Physical Therapy, although mandated, was nonexistent prior to COVID. Tim White of WPRI did an investigation which showed that some egress doors were not handicapped accessible for the veterans in wheel chairs to exit in case of an emergency. Despite promises, doors still have not been widened. The contractor and the oversight contractor, Gilbane, were never asked by the state to pony up for the costs for this major blooper.

Mr. Yarn has an office suite at the home where he is MIA. If he didn’t know that the law didn’t allow double dipping or, if he did know, and did it anyway, he should be fired. General Baccus headed for the hills by retiring. Lip service is now spelled BACCUS, YARN. Hero is spelled CIANCI.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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