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Government & Politics

BPW approves contract for Charlotte Hall; Moore apologizes to wrongly imprisoned man

Management at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home has been questioned by the Moore administration after reports of neglect and abuse. Photo by Angela Breck.

The Board of Public Works on Wednesday unanimously approved a nearly $200 million emergency contract with a Georgia company that will take over management of Charlotte Hall Veterans Home.

The new contractor, PruittHealth, replaces South Carolina-based HRM. The incumbent operator has managed the St. Mary’s County facility since 2002. Moore announced in March that he was canceling the contract following reports of abuse and neglect at the facility.

“We owe it to our veterans to get this right,” said Moore. “We owe it to their families to get this right. We owe it to the service they [provided] to our state to get this right, and to our country to get it right. And we owe it to move at the kind of speed that it requires because the truth is when they signed up to serve our country, they didn’t ask us to wait. So we’re not going to do the same to them now.”

Charlotte Hall Veterans Home opened in 1985 and provides assisted and skilled nursing care for honorably discharged veterans and their spouses. Residents typically have more challenging physical and mental health care needs than residents of private facilities.

It is currently the only state-run veterans nursing home in Maryland. Another is planned for Carroll County.

HMR was in the seventh year of an eight-year contract when Moore announced the cancellation. That deal, awarded in 2016, was worth a total of $341.7 million.

In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a series of reports highlighting concerns at the facility. The federal agency gave Charlotte Hall its lowest rating accompanied with a warning about reports of abuse.

The findings include minor to more serious issues involving physical abuse or degradation.

Since 2020, the facility has been fined four times by federal regulators. The fines totaled $266,217. Fines are assessed for an array of issues including serious health or safety issues, and can also be issued for failing to correct a citation for an extended period.

In addition to a search for a new operator, the state hired an outside company to evaluate the health and well-being of the current residents of veterans facility. The state also hired short-term nursing staff to assist at the facility.

State lawmakers quickly passed legislation imposing new stricter reporting standards for state-owned nursing homes. Moore signed the bill into law earlier this year.

Under the terms of the contract approved by the board, the state will pay PruittHealth Veterans Services more than $159 million to manage the facility for a four-year term starting June 5.

The company would also receive more than $39 million for an optional fifth year.

Anthony Woods. Courtesy photo.

The average cost of roughly $39.7 million per year for the full five-year deal is about $3 million less than what the state agreed to pay PruittHealth’s predecessor.

PruittHealth was hired by the state in May, making the contract approval retroactive, according to Maryland Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Woods.

PruittHealth operates more than 100 facilities in the southeast portion of the country including North Carolina and Georgia. Its facilities include a number of nursing homes for military veterans.

Woods said a number of PruittHealth’s facilities, including its veterans homes, have won awards in recent years for “meeting the highest safety and quality health care standards.”

“Our hope is that Charlotte Hall will someday join these ranks as among the best in the nation,” said Woods. “This is what the residents of Charlotte Hall absolutely deserve.”

Moore apologizes for wrongful conviction

A Wicomico County man wrongfully convicted of a 1996 sexual assault received compensation and a formal apology from the governor of Maryland.

The board of Public Works unanimously approved more than $800,000 in compensation to David Veney.

Maryland Gov. Wes More (D). File photo by Bryan P. Sears.

“I know that I speak for the entire state when I say that I’m deeply sorry, that none of this should have happened,” said Moore, speaking to Veney, who was in attendance at the State House meeting.

As part of the compensation awarded, Veney will receive $714,676.60.

The amount is based on a state formula that included more than $91,000 in annual income for each of the nearly eight years Veney was wrongfully imprisoned. Payments to Veney will be made through December 25, 2025 including a $91,431 payment made in the next 60 days.

Veney will also receive more than $89,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development to resolve housing benefit claims resulting from his erroneous conviction.

Veney’s lawyers will receive $8,470.54 in fees.

“We cannot put a price tag on what you lost,” said Moore. “The time that would have been spent going out with friends or family and going to a museum or going to dinner and giving back to your community, to the lives of others. And we all know that that is time that you will never be able to get back. But the payments that we are authorizing today, they do represent a formal acknowledgement from the state of Maryland for the injustice that was caused.”

Veney is the 20th person to be compensated by the board for wrongfully convicted and imprisoned.

The payments are based on a formula created by the passage of The Walter Lomax Act. The 2021 law was named for a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent nearly four decades in prison.

Veney was arrested, charged and ultimately convicted of first-degree rape and first-degree burglary based on accusations made by a former neighbor.

He spent 2,853 days in prison.

In 2005, while in prison, Veney filed an appeal and received a new trial. A reinvestigation by the Wicomico County Office of the State’s Attorney determined evidence proved Veney’s actual innocence. The prosecutor ultimately declined to pursue the new trial and dropped the charges.

“It has been a burden that I can’t articulate and I’m thankful that 26 years later I was finally vindicated,” said Veney, who now works with the homeless in Virginia.

“I am overwhelmed. I am extremely grateful. The apology means so much to me,” he said.


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BPW approves contract for Charlotte Hall; Moore apologizes to wrongly imprisoned man