State Board of Veterans Affairs Votes on Veterans Homes

     The State Board of Veterans Affairs met on May 15th and voted unanimously not to accept existing facilities for conversion to state veterans homes. The Board directed the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) to not accept any existing facilities. The renovation of existing buildings and long-term upkeep costs make such projects ill-advised.

      “The recent changes to the federal guidelines sought by the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs have given states more leeway in constructing new veterans homes,” Dee Hardin, vice chairman of the State Board of Veterans Affairs, said. “However, we are still bound by other federal requirements including a requirement to provide our residents with a homelike atmosphere.”

     States must comply with the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) requirements for construction and/or renovations. CFR 59-130 states that the project must “
provide sufficient space and equipment in dining, health services, recreation, and program areas to enable staff to provide residents with needed services.” The interior and exterior of state homes should resemble an attractive and homelike environment.

     The ADVA’s living facilities have a homelike environment, not a hospital-like atmosphere. Veterans homes are not hospital or medical centers, although veterans homes staff will transport the veteran for appointments of acute care. “Our veterans are residents in our homes and we provide them with the dignity and privacy that they had in their own home,” W. Clyde Marsh, ADVA commissioner, said. “State Veterans Homes do not provide lifesaving procedures or acute care, but instead are a daily living facility. These homes are the residence of the aging veterans and must meet their needs with the dignity and respect they have earned and deserve!”

     Alabama has 227 nursing homes with just over 26,000 available beds. Four of these facilities are state veterans homes with 704 available beds, providing an additional option for some veterans. This option is based on availability for veterans as are community nursing homes as well as private sitters and private/personal caregivers that assists veterans at home.

     “It is important to clarify that veterans are not dying because they are not getting into our state veterans homes,” he said. “The majority of these veterans will die due to age related conditions whether they are in a hospital setting, private nursing facility, a state veterans home or at their own home.”

     A feasibility study has been budgeted for FY18. The results of this study will guide our future decisions on what type of services our veterans need and the best location to provide those services for the most impact. This will also provide the supporting documentation needed to be awarded a VA construction grant which usually covers approximately two-thirds of the construction costs.

     “We have worked too hard to provide the best for our fellow Alabama veterans to go backwards now,” Ken Rollins, chairman of the State Veterans Homes committee, said. “We owe them.”