Peak Resources now certified by Veterans Administration

By on December 4, 2017

Sue Goodrich (left), Melissa Harrison, and Tori Peters. Goodrich and Peters were instrumental in urging Peak to become V.A. certified after finding there were no local facilities to serve their late father. (Sam Walker)

It’s been a 19-month journey, but thanks to the efforts of Peak Resources and many others, military veterans can now use their Veterans Administration benefits locally.

As the Outer Banks Voice reported in July, when the nursing home and rehabilitation facility in Nags Head changed hands from Colony Ridge, V.A. certification did not automatically transfer, leaving local veterans and their families with the choice of paying out of pocket to keep loved ones close by, or placing them in facilities in Elizabeth City or even Hampton Roads.

All of that has changed on November 30, when Peak Resources of the Outer Banks held a public celebration to announce their new contract with the Veterans Administration

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“The VA Medical Center maintains of list of approved local nursing homes they have partnered with,” said Melissa Harrison, the administrator of the Nags Head facility at a gathering to celebrate the agreement. “We are pleased that Peak Resouces Outer Banks is now on that list so we can provide services to our veterans.”

“By having this contract we are able to meet the needs of our veterans requiring our services in their own community while remaining close to their families,” Harrison said.

The Voice sat down with Harrison prior to the meeting to recount how the process got started and what it took to reach last Thursday’s big announcement.

“Nineteen months ago I was approached by Sue Goodrich, whose father, the late Army Col. L.L. Lewane, was in need of such a facility, and we began a discussion about the need for such services here and how to go about it,” Harrison said.

Harrison credited Goodrich at the public ceremony as playing a major role in explaining the need for such a partnership locally.

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The family’s struggles in finding localized care for Col. Lewane is recounted in this article.

Harrison told us another local facility pointed her to the right people to commence the process, leading her to Sheila Griffin, the V.A.’s Home and Community Care Manager, and that began the first phase, submitting an application and the required documentation.

The next step was an on-site visitation of the facility by V.A. officials and recommendations for any needed renovations or changes.

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“We were able to move into the contract phase (once that step was completed),” Harrison said.

Harrison said Peak Resources CFO, Brian Hill, worked diligently with Donald Blackwell, the V.A. contracting officer, and Sheila Griffin to help is meet their requirements and come to an agreement to the partnership.

All of which led to the contract that is now in place, but there were more wheels turning in the background.

Harrison noted there were numerous phone calls from the public once it was revealed that Peak was pursuing V.A. certification.

She also credited U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), who made a personal call, and his staff, which made regular status update inquiries as the process moved along.

Similarly, the office of U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) also checked in regularly.

Harrison gave special praise to Col. Carl Reiber, Commander of the local VFW Post, and vice-chairman of the Veterans Advisory Council for his encouragement, cooperation, and for “providing a voice for the Outer Banks Veterans.”

Melissa Harrison is the administrator of Peak Resources Outer Banks.

Last, but not least, Harrison thanked the county Board of Commissioners, Nags Head town manager Cliff Ogburn, the town’s mayor, Don Edwards, and commissioner Susie Walters for their support through the entire transition process from Colony Ridge to Peak, as well as the V.A. certification efforts.

We asked Harrison specifically what the new certification and contract means to local veterans.

First, she wanted to clear up one misconception. The Peak facility in Nags Head is not a clinic. It is a skilled nursing facility and veterans needing actual clinical medical care would still need to access facilities in the larger metropolitan areas of Hampton Roads and other cities in North Carolina.

But, as a skilled nursing facility, Peak can now offer not only the usual nursing home services for veterans, they can also provide long-term care, short-term physical rehabilitation, and more in-depth services such as patients requiring 24-hour care.

Harrison did want to emphasize that the V.A. sets the rules here regarding eligibility and coverage, not Peak.

“The V.A. acts like an insurer with Peak,” she said.

“When a veteran is in the hospital and we are informed they will need care after being discharged, we make a referral to the V.A. which means we are initiating a pre-authorization process for the patient,” Harrison said. But the V.A. determines the eligibility for such care, which means the patient must meet their eligibility criteria.”

The V.A.’s criteria include a priority ranking that is tied to the level of a veterans service-related disability, their Veterans service level status, and income.

The higher the veterans’ priority, the greater the benefits.

“A Priority 1 classification, which means the veterans disability is 50% or more service-related, can cover all expenses. Veterans with a lower classification may have to make co-payments for the facility and meds. Those co-payments are made to the V.A. and Veteran’s Affairs determines all eligibility and coverage levels,” Harrison said.

The entire approval process, when initiated while a veteran is hospitalized, can take up to 72-hours, and Harrison said that was about the same time frame Peak experiences with Medicare and private insurance referrals.

Peak’s Nags Head facility can handle over 120 patients and with an average patient load of 70 per day, there is plenty of room to take care of veterans should they require Peak’s services.

A veteran can also initiate a request for V.A. benefits from their home in situations where they are not hospitalized.

Residents, dignitaries and special guests enjoy a reception to celebrate the VA certification. (Sam Walker)

“That process takes a different set of applications and referrals and more of the burden falls on the veterans or their family to complete the paperwork and documentation. Referrals from a hospital are easier and quicker, but home-based referrals provide another alternative,” according to Harrison.

One side benefit for veterans and their family goes far beyond the fact that loved ones can visit without making long out-of-town journeys.

The cost of a semi-private room is $220 a day, so any V.A. benefits, even with co-pays is a significant financial help versus the former choice of having a family member in a facility hours away.

“In addition to family members visiting every day, this community shows love like no other I’ve seen,” Harrison said. “It is amazing how many church groups, neighbors, friends, and volunteers come to see our residents and now veterans will be able to share in this special love the Outer Banks shows our residents and patients,” she exclaimed.

Veterans will also be the beneficiary of what has been described by many Nags Head officials of a company that went over and above the contractual requirements, Nags Head negotiated in turning the facility over to Peak.

Peak agreed to spend about $1.5 million to upgrade the facility when they signed the contract with the Town of Nags Head.

To date, they’ve spent over $4.5 million and they are still making improvements.

“When you come here and see this facility, you are experiencing the Peak standard for all of our facilities,” Harrison said.

“We basically gutted the interior. Every resident has their own television and phone. We’ve added community living rooms, state of the art equipment in the rehab gym,” Harrison said. “We completed remodeled the portico and the landscaping is just amazing and pleasing to the eye.”

“We’re adding a new generator that can handle a greater load, in order to keep us up and running when the power goes out, and there’s still some other improvements to come,” Harrison said.

For our local veterans, all of this adds up to a major improvement in the quality-of-life for these servicemen and women, their families, as well as lifting a major financial burden from many who chose to pay out-of-pocket to keep loved ones nearby.

Harrison encourages the public to visit them in Nags Head. They are confident families and potential patients will approve of what they see.

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Comments

Q

Tuesday, Dec 5 11:32 am

Hello Michael~
I understand your concerns I had the same concerns too.
What I have found out through my own personal experience,
At “any” skilled nursing facility the care is only as good, as the family who is in daily contact with their loved one.

On the brighter side,
I am not saying the Veteran Administration is any better in quality but perhaps having a second set of eyes on a skilled facility will raise the standard of quality care for our community.
The NC state guidelines for skilled nursing long term facilities need to be raised as well.

MICHAEL

Monday, Dec 4 7:02 pm

This facility is EXTREMELY understaffed and especially overnight. Just look at the rate in which they are losing staff… CNAs, RNs, even Nursing administration. People need to be treated and paid fairly to want to keep working their job and that is obviously not happening at this facility. Please keep your loved ones in a SAFE healthcare facility, not a CONVENIENT one!

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