Finding nursing home care for veterans in Southwest Florida

Reporter: Morgan Rynor
Published: Updated:

There are currently no Veterans Affairs nursing homes in Florida that received a full five-star rating.

Saint Petersburg and Lake City received one star. Tampa, Orlando and Gainesville received two stars. West Palm Beach got three and Miami got four stars.

How can we make sure veterans get the care they deserve after coming home from serving our country?

Michael Saam is a veteran, and he remembers his time in the US Navy aboard the USS John F. Kennedy air craft carrier.

“For a 19-year-old kid it was unbelievable,” he said.

Now, 49 years later, he is settled down in Southwest Florida, receiving medical care through Veterans Affairs and he says they’ve helped him tremendously.

“We opened this facility in December of 2012 and we offer approximately 20-25 different services,” said Lynn Buchanan, the Chief Nurse with Southern VA Clinics.

Those services include primary care, mental health, audiology, radiology and many others.

But one service they don’t directly control are nursing homes.

Veterans Affairs does contract with six different nursing homes in Lee, Collier and Charlotte County including Heritage Park.

“If they need care we provide most of their care in collaboration with the VA, social worker, and nurse that come in,” said Dawn Stanfield, the Executive Director Heritage Park nursing home. “If they have appointments, the VA arranges transportation, arranges the appointments.”

Stanfield says the VA does cover room and board and medication. Another service Southwest Florida doesn’t include is a VA hospital, with the closest located in St. Pete and Miami.

But Saam says that is okay.

“It never bothered me because I’ve been at both of them, and it’s a little bit of a drive but other than that they take very good care of you there,” he said.

The Lee County VA Healthcare Center does have a surgical unit but it is only for same-day surgeries.

If the local VA can’t take you in within 30 days, the rule of thumb is they will see if they can get you care in Tampa or Miami and if that doesn’t work out, they will connect you with other local resources and will cover that care.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Find nursing home care contracted by Veterans Affairs and VA owned Community Living Centers at the VA website.

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