(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are introducing bipartisan legislation to expand veterans’ access to assisted living services.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is restricted from paying room and board fees at assisted living facilities—a policy that precludes veterans from utilizing this long-term care option. The Senators’ Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act would create a pilot program for eligible veterans to receive assisted living care paid for by VA—allowing aging veterans to live more independently and save taxpayer dollars. The pilot program would be conducted at six Veterans Integrated Services Networks (VISNs) nationwide, including at least two program sites located in rural or highly rural areas and two State Veterans Homes.
“As Montana’s veteran population ages, we’ve got to make sure these folks have access to a wide-range of long-term care options closer to home,” said Chairman Tester. “Our bipartisan bill will require VA to pay for this care—making sure veterans in rural areas maintain the independence they’ve earned all while keeping more money in taxpayers’ pockets.”
“As the number of aging veterans continues to increase, the VA needs to be prepared to efficiently and sustainably care for this community,” said Ranking Member Moran. “Creating a pilot program to develop and assess the effectiveness of assisted living care will help VA proactively prepare for the rapid increase of aging veterans expected over the next two decades.”
“We make a promise to our veterans that we’ll take care of them long after their service ends, and that includes making sure the VA provides them with the assisted living care and services they have earned,” said Senator Murray. “This legislation would make a tremendous difference in the lives of so many veterans in Washington state—especially those in rural areas like in Central and Eastern Washington—who have struggled to live independently or find access to veterans homes in the state. We need this bill to ensure we are fully living up to our responsibility in caring for those who have sacrificed so much to defend our country.”
The Senators’ bill received strong backing from various Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and stakeholders nationwide.
“With the number of veterans eligible for long-term care expected to increase more than fivefold over the next two decades, the VA needs to be prepared to care for these veterans and ensure they can live their lives as independently as possible,” said Disabled American Veterans National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “One way to accomplish this is by providing those veterans whose conditions do not rise to the level of requiring nursing home care with other long-term care options. The Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act would create a pilot program for veterans to receive assisted living care paid for by VA and would allow more veterans to continue living with respect and dignity. DAV is pleased to give our support, and we thank Senator Tester for introducing this important legislation.”
“Senator Tester’s Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act would authorize VA to support assisted living programs for aging and disabled veterans, many of whom would otherwise require more expensive nursing home care,” said National Association of State Veterans Homes (NASVH) President Heyward Hilliard. “NASVH strongly supports this groundbreaking legislation to expand veterans’ long term care options, including at State Veterans Homes, and applauds Senator Tester for his continued leadership and commitment to America’s heroes.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on the need for more medical care and services especially for older Americans and Veterans. Senators Tester, Moran, and Murray’s bill, Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act provides a proactive and innovative approach for VA to look at other alternatives to address the growing population of aging veterans,” said Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). “We look forward to working the senators and Congress to get this legislation passed into law this year.”
“On behalf of IAVA, I express my appreciation to Sens. Tester, Moran, and Murray for taking steps to address this looming challenge,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Executive Vice President Tom Porter. “By expanding veterans’ long term care options as the legislation provides, we allow more independence while creating cost savings for the VA—something we should all be able to support.”
“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applaud Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) for their proposal to address the critical issue of long term care for rural veterans,” said National Rural Health Association Chief Executive Officer Alan Morgan. “The Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act will help veterans living in rural areas access essential support through assisted living facilities, providing an important alternative to nursing home care.”
“The veteran population is aging and needs increased access to a variety of long-term care options,” said Paralyzed Veterans of America's Associate Executive Director for Government Relations Heather Ansley. “Currently, VA can refer veterans to assisted living facilities but cannot directly pay for that care. The Expanding Veterans' Options for Long Term Care Act would test the benefit of having VA pay for this care. It would help veterans and VA alike by giving greater access to assisted living and reducing costs for long-term care, allowing more veterans to receive needed assistance.”
“AARP, on behalf of our 38 million members and all older Americans nationwide, is pleased to endorse the Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act,” said AARP Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Bob Sweeney. “We applaud your bipartisan efforts to give veterans more options for how and where they can get the long-term care they need.”
Text of the Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act can be found HERE.