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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Commonwealth Health & Rehab Center Agrees To Settle Claim That It Failed To Provide Effective Communication Services To Deaf Individuals

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The United States Attorney’s Office announced today a $162,500 settlement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) with Commonwealth Health & Rehab Center (“CHRC”), which is located in Fairfax County, Va. and is part of the Commonwealth Care of Roanoke’s network of skilled nursing facilities, to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in the provision of medical services.

            The United States Attorney’s investigation began with a complaint from the public alleging that CHRC violated the ADA by failing to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreter services, to three individuals who are deaf (a resident of CHRC and two members of his family) during critical interactions relating to the patient’s medical care.  The complainants alleged that because of CHRC’s failure to provide sign language interpreter services, these three individuals were denied the benefit of effective communication with the skilled nursing facility’s clinical staff and the opportunity to effectively participate in treatment decisions.

“This settlement exemplifies our unwavering commitment to protect the rights of those who are deaf or hard of hearing and to ensure that they are able to communicate with health care professionals, especially when patients and their companions have critical interactions with medical providers,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Boente.

            The settlement agreement requires that CHRC pay $160,000 to the three aggrieved individuals and a $2,500 penalty to the United States; provide training to the skilled nursing facility’s staff on the requirements of the ADA; and adopt specific policies and procedures to ensure that auxiliary aids and services are provided promptly to patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing.

            This matter was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Gordon, who coordinates the Civil Rights Initiative for the United States Attorney’s Office.

This case is a part of the Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, which seeks to enforce the ADA’s prohibition of discrimination against disabled individuals by health care providers, including hospitals.  Through the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the nation and the Department’s Civil Rights Division target their enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities—access to medical services and facilities.  The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative is a multi-phase initiative that includes effective communication for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, physical access to medical care for people with mobility disabilities, and equal access to treatment for people who have HIV/AIDS.

            The Department of Justice has a number of publications available to assist entities in complying with the ADA, including a Business Brief on Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Hospital Settings, at www.ada.gov/hospcombr.htm.  For more information on the ADA and to access these publications, visit http://www.ada.gov or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).  ADA complaints may be filed by email to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.
Updated March 18, 2015