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Bill Would Prevent VA Nursing Home Care Coverage Expiration

March 21, 2017, 11:50 AM HST
* Updated March 21, 11:55 AM
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Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home. Website photo.

Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the bipartisan Keeping Our Commitment to Disabled Veterans Act to extend an expiring requirement under law that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provide nursing care for certain veterans with service-connected disabilities.

Without extension by Congress beyond Dec. 31, 2017, the VA would no longer be required to provide this coverage.

Around 350 Hawai‘i veterans at nine public and private facilities across the state depend on VA reimbursement for their nursing home care needs, including those at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo.

“We’d like to thank Sen. Hirono for her steadfast efforts to defend the healthcare benefits our nation’s veterans have earned,” said David R. Pettijohn, administrator of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home. “Sen. Hirono’s Keeping Our Commitment to Disabled Veterans Act would ensure veterans with 70% or greater military service-related disabilities would not lose this VA benefit. Loss of this VA payment source would create a devastating financial burden for residents currently being served at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home. The burden for the care of these veterans would ultimately shift back to the Federal VA or the State Medicaid system. Ultimately it would put the entire state veterans home program at risk.”

“VA coverage of nursing home care has helped hundreds of Hawai‘i veterans and their families afford comprehensive services to maintain their quality of life and care for their service-connected conditions,” said Sen. Hirono. “Last month, I visited Hale Makua Health Services on Maui, which would be impacted by a lapse in the program. We must keep our commitment to these veterans which is why I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill with Sen. Collins.”

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“We owe it to our veterans to provide them with the high-quality health care they have earned through their service to our country,” said Sen. Collins. “By extending the authorization for nursing home coverage, our bipartisan legislation would make sure that service-disabled veterans receive the care, resources and support that they need.”

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Senator Angus King (I-Maine) also cosponsored the bill.

“By extending this provision, more veterans on Maui will be able to receive around the clock nursing care and supervision in our homes,” said Wes Lo, CEO of Hale Makua Health Services, a local non-profit which operates the only two free standing nursing homes on Maui. “We are grateful to Sen. Hirono for introducing this bill which will help provide healthcare to those disabled veterans who have selflessly served our country and give peace of mind to their families.”

“Extending this provision would help to ensure continuity and stability for the tens of thousands of veterans who rely on nursing home care every day,” said Dave Riley, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). “These veterans, many who are aging and severely injured or ill, cannot afford disruptions to their established care and treatment. DAV supports the extension and thanks Sen. Hirono and Sen. Collins for their commitment to protecting the care and benefits our nation’s disabled veterans have earned.”

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The Keeping Our Commitment to Disabled Veterans Act is also supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the National Association of State Veterans Homes (NASVH).

According to VA, around 35,000 veterans nationwide and nearly 350 Hawaii veterans have received care through this authority in FY2016. During this time period, the total amount spent by VA in Hawai‘i on this care is approximately $33 million. In addition to the Hawaii VA Community Living Center in Honolulu, there are a number of private nursing homes in Hawai‘i that are reimbursed for caring for veteran patients under this authority.

Other Hawai‘i facilities receiving VA nursing care reimbursement funding in Fiscal Year 2016:

O‘ahu
VA Community Living Center in Honolulu
Hale Ho Aloha Nursing Home in Honolulu
Hale Nani Rehab and Nursing Center in Honolulu
Maunalani Nursing and Rehab Center in Honolulu
Aloha Nursing and Rehab Center in Kaneohe
Ann Pearl Nursing Home in Kaneohe

Maui
Hale Makua Health Services in Kahului and Wailuku

Kaua‘i
Garden Isle Healthcare and Rehab Center in Lihue

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