Ombudsmen have represented seniors and people with disabilities in the long-term care setting since 1972. However, this mission has become more challenging recently. In some states, these representatives have found themselves stifled when their personalities or positions on policy issues counter those of the state government, according to a report by Kaiser Health News (KHN) in cooperation with USA Today and the SCAN Foundation.
The job of an ombudsmen is not a small one. In 2011, ombudsmen in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam received, investigated and settled complaints for seniors and others with disabilities in 204,000 complaints that addressed issues from eviction to poor quality food. They investigate complaints and conflicts, testify in court and legislature, and present LTC issues to the media.
Lori Smetanka, director of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, told KNH: “Ombudsman independence has been a longstanding hot-button issue in a number of areas, both at the state and local level.” She added that if state policies get in the way, no one is speaking for those in long-term care and "their voice is not being carried to that higher level.”