Analysis: Washington County builds a Veterans Home but our nation needs to step up

Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are solely hers and not those of St. George News.

OPINION – Last year, Washington County received the approval to build a much needed and long desired Veterans Nursing Home in Ivins and construction is now underway.  According to the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs, this will be the fourth facility in the entire state of Utah. Washington County has about 10,000 veterans; the facility will have 108 beds; and it will cost $18 million to build.

Rendering of Washington County Veterans Nursing Home, August 2011 | Photo courtesy of Ivins City and the UDVA

This is exciting news for our county but the realization of just how few VA facilities there are in the United States is a discouraging thought.

The VA reported that the State of Utah was not at the top of the list for approval, but the downturn in the economy affected the other states’ ability to raise their portion of the funds required to complete nursing homes. Utah beat out 20 other states by pulling together its part of the funding first, so that it could qualify to add two additional nursing homes, bringing the total to four VA homes within our entire state.

This brings the grand total to only 136 homes within the entire United States.

According to a March 12, 2001, U.S. House of Representatives Report to the Committee on the Budget from the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, (pdf link below, see pg. 10), the State Home Grants Program provides that states, such as Utah, pay 35 percent of the construction cost for these homes and the VA pays the other 65 percent. Over 130 homes are still waiting for approval to start the building process around the country.

Today, roughly 10 million Americans are age 65 or older, according to the Armed Forces Veterans Homes Foundation. We are living longer, and that with illnesses and chronic diseases that require an increasing degree of medications and care.  We have two million veterans 85 and older. There are at most 15,000 individual nursing home beds available in veteran facilities today within the United States. This is clearly not enough to meet the demand.

Currently, 11 states do not even provide any type of VA homes or hospitals.

There are countless programs of waste within our government; money that could have been spent on countless needed VA services.

Last year, Fox News reported that President Obama’s Administration gave Solyndra, a company in Arizona, $500 million in loans after knowing this company would likely go bankrupt within one year; and they did. In 2003, $25 billion just disappeared from the budget in a tiny section innocently entitled “Un-reconciled Transactions Affecting the Change in Net Position,” according to the Heritage Foundation; in other words, spending unaccounted for in the budget. That money, to put it into perspective, would have paid for nearly half of the yearly budget to fund the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. According to CNS news, our government also spent almost $3 million teaching Chinese prostitutes how to drink responsibly.

Our lawmakers should be accountable for this wasteful spending while our veterans are in dire need of nursing homes and hospitals.

As a nation, our priority should be taking care of our own. We started realizing our duty to help our returning soldiers as early as 1636, when Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony fought with the Pequot Indians. The Pilgrims enacted a law from English law that reads, “If any man shall be sent forth as a soldier and shall return maimed, he shall be maintained competently by the colony during his life.”

In 1789, Congress passed a law that pensions were to be provided to disabled veterans and their dependents. In 1811, the first medical facility for veterans was completed. The establishment of the VA came in 1930 when Congress authorized the President to “consolidate and coordinate Government activities affecting war veterans.”

The Senior Veterans Service Alliance reports that it can cost up to $7,000 a month to care for a veteran in a nursing home. A majority of that money, $5,541 comes from VA aid and other state subsidies. The other part of the monthly cost, $1,451, is the veteran’s own out-of-pocket expense. Veterans do not get these services free of charge.  After they are on a long waiting list and finally accepted into one of these homes, the veteran still has to pay a monthly stipend to have these services.

It may seem easier to have the VA pay the benefit toward a veteran’s care in an already established nursing home but there are benefits to the building of VA nursing homes. Veterans like the idea of sharing living facilities with other veterans. They like the camaraderie. The other reasons are financial. These veterans may own a home or other assets that they would like to pass on to their children or spouse. Unlike the Medicaid program, which would require spend down of those assets before kicking in Medicaid funds, the VA will aid these veterans in a state-run nursing home without requiring the veterans to spend down those assets. The VA has the ability to give veterans more financial freedom when veterans live in VA nursing homes.

We should be asking our politicians to prioritize funds for our veterans; this being an election year, it is an opportune time to do so. It is time to take care of our own.

These facilities also help local economies by supplying jobs. According to Ivins City, the new facility will bring in about 150 jobs to the area and $4 million in salaries per year.

The Veteran’s Coalition of Southern Utah is credited with raising $200,000 for the nursing home to finally obtain approval to break ground. This VA nursing home is great for Washington County and long awaited for our many veterans who need and deserve this facility.

For additional information on this project go to the VCOSU website or contact coalition Chairman William C. Toole by telephone to 435-652-3998 or by email to [email protected]


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Copyright 2012 St. George News.


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1 Comment

  • Matthew Sevald April 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Of the 10,000 vets in Washington County, how many are permanently disabled, retired veterans? Surely not even enough to fill all of the spacious 108 beds.
    This VA nursing home is netiher desired nor needed. It is a waste of money by the Federal Government that could be better appropriated towards care for the large number of young, disabled, and injured Veterans who need both active medical and psychiatric care in Southern Utah. Currently, a veteran needing anything but a bandaid change needs to go all the way to Salt Lake City (and most likely stay overnight if he’s using the shuttle system) to be seen. They must call ahead and get authorization forms mailed down to use a local eye doctor. If a veteran wants psychiatric care through the VA – even just to talk to someone about possible PTSD – then they must submit to a physical examination at the local clinic. Sometimes a servicemember just needs to talk to someone, not turn their head and cough and check their height and weight and be given pamphlets on exercise and smoking cessation. Why all the rigamarole instead of a direct fix?
    What is needed are more doctors, nurses, and counselors here in St. George that are VA certified, OR, an easier process for local veterans to go to the local hospitals and instacares for their service-connected ailments and simply fill out a form or show their ID card and have the hospital do all the transferring of documents / billing for the vet. Who has time to give up from work and family to drive 8-12 hours round trip for a simple ailment? I suppose the half dozen disabled, retired vets who will be living in this home, that’s who.
    This is typical government stupidity.

    Semper Fidelis
    Matt Sevald, former USMC

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