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

The legislation introduced Thursday by Michaud, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has a powerful co-sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the committee. A committee hearing is expected July 25.

The reimbursement fix is also in a broader Senate veterans affairs bill that has been approved in committee and is headed for the Senate floor, Michaud’s office said.

The problem for a number of state veterans homes around the country, including Maine Veterans’ Homes and its six locations, was highlighted in a committee hearing last year.

In adopting a new policy meant to improve long-term care for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs too severely limited reimbursements for such facilities.

Kelley Kash, CEO of Maine Veterans’ Homes, told the veterans affairs committee that the VA was not paying enough to the not-for-profit organization created by the Maine Legislature in 1977 to cover the cost of skilled nursing care for the residents.

Kash said the gap could cause Maine Veterans’ Homes — which has 640 beds at homes in Augusta, Bangor, Caribou, Scarborough, South Paris and Machias — to lose $8 million to $16 million per year if it were to admit every veteran who reasonably could seek admission. That would bankrupt the institution in a year and a half to three years, Kash said.

Michaud said the VA 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, said Michaud’s office.

Michaud’s office noted that the VA says 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.”

Jonathan Riskind — 791-6280

[email protected]

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