PHOENIX - Stuart Matthews, a Vietnam veteran, says he sees the changes in the care and attention he and others receive at the Arizona State Veteran Home.
"I've been getting a lot more help; now I get my own shower person, I get my own nurse and my own social worker," said Matthews, who has lived there since 2006.
State officials say the changes show in evaluations of the home and its care by state and federal agencies.
Three years after reports of rule violations and inadequate patient care led to the resignation of the head of the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services, Matthews and others say care is significantly better - though not necessarily perfect.
During annual reviews of the 200-bed facility last year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Arizona Department of Health Services acknowledged improvements in the quality and training of staff members; protocols for nurses, such as what to do when residents are injured; and a rapid response to correcting deficiencies.
"They've really improved, and that's showing in the results that we're finding," said Alan Oppenheim, deputy assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
One of the biggest improvements, Oppenheim said, is establishing procedures so problems don't recur.
"They are not just focusing on one issue," he said. "They're taking a look at it and seeing how that issue potentially could be spread; and they work to stop it from spreading."
In 2007, not long after reports of neglect and unsanitary conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center made national headlines, the state DHS cited problems such as staff members ignoring call buttons and leaving residents in soiled clothing at the veterans home.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services fined the state more than $10,000. Patrick F. Chorpenning, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services, later resigned.
Three years later, agency leaders point to changes made in response to those concerns, such as hiring better-qualified and better-paid employees and putting more emphasis on residents' individual plans of care, said Homer Rodgers, the assistant deputy director who supervises the home.
"When you set systems in place, you make sure that the regulations are being maintained and they won't fall out, and those systems are in place and strictly adhered to," Rodgers said.
Matthews, who breathes oxygen from a tank, said that while things are better around the home there's still room for improvement, such as getting rid of occasional long waits - sometimes as long as 40 minutes - for nurses to respond to his call button.
"When they don't answer that call light they could be putting someone's life in jeopardy," he said.