(Washington, DC) The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs faces serious challenges in meeting the needs of the nation's 25 million veterans, public officials said a hearing held Thursday.
"The Department of Veterans Affairs will spend nearly $2.4 billion this year providing institutional long-term care to 34,000 veterans each day. This care is provided not only in VA's 130 nursing home facilities, but also in 120 state veterans homes, as well as dozens of privately-owned facilities around the country. In addition, VA will spend nearly $300 million providing non-institutional long term care to 26,000 veterans each day," said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Long term care is something Craig knows about. He spent the past four years leading the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging before taking over the Veterans' Affairs committee. "Even with those extraordinary sums of money going to care for tens-of-thousands of veterans, the VA is still merely scratching the surface of long-term care provided to our nation's veterans," Craig said.
A spokesman for the Paralyzed Veterans of America was more blunt about the challenges ahead, noting that the VA will need nearly 45,500 beds in 2013, but under a proposal VA officials have made to Congress, the federal agency is seeking to reduce its bed capacity down about half the need ? to just over 22,000 beds.
"This Perfect Storm will have negative consequences for aging veterans by reducing VA' s nursing home capacity and damaging State Veterans' Homes, at a time of increasing demand, well into the 21st century," said Fred Cowell on behalf of the PVA.
But Dr. Jonathan Perlin, the Under Secretary for Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told the Senate committee the VA is meeting all of the current demands for long-term care.
" I think that VA and Congress have developed a rational and effective system for meeting the long-term care needs of the highest priority veterans," Perlin said.
He noted that the VA's plans for meeting the future long-term care needs of veterans include integrating care coordination systems, enhancing programs to support in-home care and community-based settings, and a continued commitment to institutional care when this best serves the needs of the veteran.