Veterans Committee chair: the path is clear on addressing veterans awaiting long-term care

State lawmakers now have information from the federal government that could make clear the path forward on creating more places for veterans on a waiting list to get into the state’s veterans homes.

Representative Charlie Davis (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Charlie Davis (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

That waiting list has around 1800 veterans on it; about one-third of those have an immediate need for care.  Legislators and state officials have in recent years considered building another state veterans home, replacing and/or expanding an existing home, or looking for options to get veterans into existing nursing homes closer to their own homes and families.

Missouri exceeds the number of veterans home beds it is allowed by the federal government before it will no longer reimburse the state for adding more.  This has largely halted efforts that included attempts to pass a bond issue in the legislature to pay for a new home, at a cost now estimated to be around $60-million.

Webb City Republican Charlie Davis, in an e-mail last week to House members and staff, said the state Veterans Commission recently met with the Veterans Association about Missouri’s options for adding bed space.  He said the VA confirmed it would not support the building of a new home.  It would cover part of the cost to replace a home.

Davis said if a home will be replaced, it will be the home at Mexico.

“It is one of our oldest homes.  It is one that is absolutely in need of some renovation and possibly so much renovation that it would cost quite a bit to actually take care of what needs to be done,” said Davis.

A new home to replace the one at Mexico would have about 50 additional beds.

To further address the state’s waiting list, Davis said the state could utilize existing space at nursing homes throughout Missouri.  The difference is that veterans don’t have to liquidate their assets to enter a veterans home, whereas a person benefitting from Medicaid support to go into a nursing home must spend down their assets to get below the income threshold for assistance.

Davis wants to seek a waiver from the federal government so that federal dollars coming to Missouri could be used for part of the cost of care for veterans in nursing homes.  The remainder of that cost would come from state aid and individual veterans’ own money.

“We do have some beds in all of our facilities across the state of Missouri, that would love to take care of our veterans, honor them, and do a fantastic job,” said Davis.

With the deadline to file new legislation for this year passed and four weeks left in the legislative session, Davis said it could be next year before the legislature can consider seeking the necessary federal waiver.

Davis, who is the chairman of the House Veterans Committee, said he is anxious to see action taken to provide homes and care for those who fought for the country.

“But the compassion, the love that we have, the honor that we have for veterans has to be met with the ability to fund it.  If we do not have the ability to fund it then we absolutely cannot do it,” said Davis.

Hannibal representative Lindell Shumake (R) has a resolution that would ask voters to approve $63-million in bonds that could go toward replacing the veterans home in Mexico.  That resolution (HJR 2) has passed out of one committee and awaits a second committee’s action.

Proposal would ask voters for bonds to pay for new or improved veterans home

A House Republican wants to again propose asking Missourians to support adding to the number of beds in Missouri’s veterans homes.

Representative Lindell Shumake (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Lindell Shumake (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Hannibal representative Lindell Shumake has proposed in the past two legislative sessions a resolution that would ask voters to approve $50-million in bonds to build a new veterans’ home.  He plans to file on December 1 a similar proposal, though this time it could be for more money.

This time it could be for a new home, or for the replacement or expansion and upgrading of the state veterans home at Mexico, which is more than 30 years old.

“There’s some thought that the home in Mexico, Missouri, needs to be rebuilt,” said Shumake.  “Of course our goal would be to expand bed space by however much we can.”

As Shumake’s proposal worked its way through the legislature’s 2016 session, he and others were told that the state already exceeds the federal Veterans Administration’s limit on beds in Missouri veterans homes of 1,257.  That means if Missouri builds a new veterans home it would not receive a federal reimbursement for the construction.  It could, though, for replacing a home.

Shumake would prefer for the state to build a new home, which would have around 150 beds, because that would go farther toward addressing the growing waiting list of veterans wanting to get into one.  As of May more than 1,900 veterans were on that list, with roughly a third of those ready to enter a home now.

He plans to file his proposal regardless of whether the state Veterans Commission favors a new home or a replacement.

“Creating the fund, having it there available would be the first step certainly,” said Shumake.  “Before it goes to the voters, though, we would want to have some more concrete ideas in mind as to if it’s going to be new or if it’s going to replace and increase the number of beds in an existing facility.”

Last year Shumake’s resolution cleared the House but stalled in the Senate.  If approved, it would go before voters on the November, 2018 ballot.