WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill in the House authored by Rep. Mike Michaud aims to fill a multimillion-dollar hole in the federal reimbursement the Maine Veterans’ Homes receives for the cost of caring for disabled veterans.

The legislation unveiled today by Michaud, D-2nd, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has a powerful co-sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the full committee. A hearing is expected in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on July 25, and the reimbursement fix also already is included in a broader Senate veterans affairs bill that has been approved by committee and is headed for the Senate floor, Michaud’s office says.

The problem facing a number of state veterans homes around the country, including Maine Veterans’ Homes and its six locations, was highlighted at a committee hearing last year. In adopting a new long-term care policy meant to improve care for veterans, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs too-severely limited the reimbursement granted these types of facilities.

Kelley Kash, the CEO of the Maine Veterans’ Homes, told the Veterans’ Affairs Committee at the hearing that the VA was not paying enough to his institution, a public nonprofit facility created by the Maine Legislature in 1977, cover the costs of providing skilled nursing care to the resident veterans.

Kash said the gap could mean as much as a $8 million to $16 million per year loss for Maine Veterans’ Homes – which operates 640 skilled, long-term care and domiciliary beds at locations in Augusta, Bangor, Caribou, Scarborough, South Paris and Machias – if it were to admit every veteran who reasonably could seek admission. That would bankrupt the institution within a year and a half to three years, he said then.

Michaud said the VA itself has acknowledged the need for the fix.

“Through no fault of their own, state veterans homes in Maine and around the country are faced with significant shortfalls that threaten their ability to treat veterans and remain open,” Michaud said. “I have been disappointed that it has taken so long for the VA to address this issue, but I am glad they now agree that legislation is necessary to fix it.”

Under the legislation, Maine Veterans’ Homes would enter into a contract with the VA that would set up a reimbursement that would directly reflect the specific costs of care provided, according to Michaud’s office.

Michaud’s office noted that the VA says that the fix would “allow the most flexibility to VA and states to ensure that states are paid adequately and according to the complexity and severity of illness of each veteran.”

 


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