WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law legislation that aims to address a federal funding problem involving veterans’ homes, including those in Augusta and elsewhere in Maine.

Officials have said the problem discouraged severely disabled and elderly veterans from getting long-term care.

The Augusta veterans home, at 310 Cony Road, provides 24-hour registered nurse coverage in three units, assisting residents with ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to its website. It serves about 150 veterans.

Gail Hillstrom, administrator of the Augusta veterans home, said organization officials were grateful for the congressional effort.

“It was a concern for our veterans because the way the program was set up would be a huge financial loss for us, and that decreases our ability to provide quality services,” Hillstrom said. “This bill will enable us to be paid in an equitable way.”

Maine’s six veterans homes stood to lose about $8 million in funding if the bill hadn’t been signed into law, she said. The other homes are in Bangor, Caribou, Machias, Scarborough and South Paris.

The legislation, known as the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, was written by U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District. Michaud is a ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health.

In a statement, Michaud said Monday that the bill’s signing marked progress for the nation’s veterans.

“It will help ensure that our veterans homes are no longer saddled with inadequate reimbursement rates for the care they provide to our nation’s heroes,” Michaud said. “Now Maine’s severely disabled and elderly veterans can be confident that the care they deserve will be there when they need it.”

The law also requires U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities to better track and report sexual assaults, impose additional restrictions on protests near military funerals and expand a grant program to retrofit homes for wounded service personnel.

 

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