Veterans home sues Rumsfeld over substandard care

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Sixteen residents of the U.S. Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington D.C. this week filed a class-action suit against the government and the facility, alleging budget cuts by the Defense Department have resulted in poor medical care.

More than 1,000 residents cannot get prescriptions and regular doctor checkups due to service cuts since the Defense Department installed new management, the suit claims. Because of the cuts, the number of deaths at the home increased from 59 in 2000 to 131 in 2003, according to the suit, which was filed on behalf of all residents.

The suit is against Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the home's chief operating officer, Timothy Cox, who was hired in 2002 to cut costs at the D.C. home and a similar veterans home in Gulfport, MS. Cox cut 65 positions at the D.C. home.

The 276-acre campus, which offers skilled nursing and other types of care, has been fighting off bankruptcy over the past decade. Operations are supported by a trust fund that relies on 50-cent-a-week paycheck deductions from all enlisted military personnel. Rising expenses and fewer military personnel in the 1990s have hurt funding for the home.