Veteran denied benefits; wife questions VA policies while continuing his care

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- It’s been a long year for the wife of a Marine veteran who claims her husband has been mistreated and denied his benefits.

Jim Custard’s wife, Connie, says she took him to the VA for medical treatment and was told there was no room. So he was transferred to the Florence Home, where Connie says he received horrible treatment.

“He’d sit there for hours with his head in his lap because he had so morphine put into him,” she said.

Officials at the VA say private nursing homes have oversight from a variety of federal and state agencies.

The VA stopped sending patients to the Florence Home.

"In regards to this particular home, we are currently not sending new admissions to that home-based upon a finding by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services,” said Kevin J. Hynes, a VA public officer. “Until that finding is clear, we’re holding placing veterans there.”

Nebraska DHHS officials said in September that the Florence home was not in substantial compliance with federal requirements for a skilled nursing facility.

Connie’s records show her husband was in the facility in November 2018 — before the non-compliance complaint was filed. Connie did file a complaint with Omaha Police; OPD says that complaint is an information report and is not public record. If evidence of a crime is discovered, then an incident report will be completed.

The Florence home established substantial compliance less than a month after the complaint was filed.

The Florence home responded with a statement, with officials there stating: “Nothing is more important than the well-being of our residents. We do not discuss specific details about their time with us.”

Eventually, Connie took Jim home. As he needs around-the-clock care, she hired help. She continued to work then came home to take care of her husband.

“It’s been tough,” she said. “You have to feed him, bathe him — and you still have to work. … It’s just a bad deal.”

Connie said she thought since her husband was a veteran, he should receive more financial help.

Officials say it’s complicated, but not all veterans are entitled to the same level of care.

“What benefits a veteran earns and is deserving of is based upon a number of different factors," Hynes said. "It could be based upon where they served, when they served — did they have any issues that would create service-related disabilities? A variety of factors.”

Connie said she’s been dealing with these issues for about a year, and she believes there should be no difference — that a veteran is a veteran.