March 21, 2017

Hirono, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Expiration of VA Nursing Home Care Coverage for 35,000 Veterans

Program Set to Expire at the End of 2017

Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) 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 December 31, 2017, VA would no longer be required to provide this coverage. Around 350 Hawaii veterans at nine public and private facilities across the state depend on VA reimbursement for their nursing home care needs.

“VA coverage of nursing home care has helped hundreds of Hawaii veterans and their families afford comprehensive services to maintain their quality of life and care for their service-connected conditions,” said Senator 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.”

“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 Senator 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.”

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

“We’d like to thank Senator 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 in Hilo, Hawaii. “Senator 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.”

“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, Chief Executive Officer of HaleMakua Health Services, a local non-profit which operates the only two free standing nursing homes on Maui. “We are grateful to Senator 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 Senator Hirono and Senator Collins for their commitment to protecting the care and benefits our nation’s disabled veterans have earned.”

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 Hawaii 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 Hawaii that are reimbursed for caring for veteran patients under this authority.

Hawaii facilities receiving VA nursing care reimbursement funding in Fiscal Year 2016:

Oahu

  • 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

Hawaii Island

  • Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo

Kauai

  • Garden Isle Healthcare and Rehab Center in Lihue