YOUNTVILLE, Calif. - The 136 year old CalVet Veterans home in Yountville has cared for elderly veterans going back Civil War soldiers and is the nation's oldest such home. But now, we're learning there's anger and angst being created with the staff by budget cuts affecting everyone from nurses to drivers to janitors. These essential front line workers are being treated in a way that angers the very veterans they serve.
The CalVet Veterans Home in Yountville, one of eight run by the state, is dedicated to the care of about a thousand aged or disabled male and female veterans. Vietnam-era veteran and five year resident Albert Vienop loves the home's staff.
"It would be a terrible situation up here if we were not getting such wonderful care from the staff," said Veterans Home resident Albert Vienop.
But, KTVU has received complaints from staff members: front line workers caring for the most vulnerable population. Some staffers complain that the staff is being overworked, that the pandemic wracked, cash-strapped state is insisting on time off instead of extra earned pay; all of which is negatively affecting the veterans' quality of care.
"We're always short staffed always," said nurse Cindy Compton says hours can be brutal; Double shifts, twice a week for some.
"If you go to work, you don't know whether or not your going to stay 16 hours or just 8, and if you do stay 16 hours your not gonna get paid for it. the morale is very bad," said Ms. Compton. "The issue is, the budget, the state has not handled well. well and they're trying to make the money up out of people's salaries," said a veteran resident did not want to give his name.
An unnamed employee told us staff pay has already been cut ten percent and to earn any overtime pay, one must first work 240 hours, 30 full days in exchange for days off, before they earn an extra dime of overtime, "That makes is a hardship because we depend on this overtime," she said. This, say the employees, further burdens them with extra childcare and home schooling costs at a time when some of their family members have lost jobs due to the pandemic or the resulting recession.
"You might have time, but what are you gonna do with time and no money?" she asked. "In no way should they be cut back on anything. They shouldn't be cut back on the overtime. They should be applauded they should be getting pay raises. They had to take a pay cut for goodness sake," said Mr. Vieno. "Our administrator said she talked to Sacramento and it's just not in the budget," said one employee.
The California Department of Veterans Affairs, citing contract language and state law gave a written statement saying; "The Yountville Home is ensuring that the practice of paid overtime and compensated time off abides by these agreements and statute."
Veterans feel concern for the staff. "I don't hear the staff complaining and if I was in their shoes, I would be complaining," Vienop. "We don't ever try to import them into our problem," said nurse Compton.
If there is any retaliation against any of these people, you and the legislature will be so informed.