(U.S. Senate) – Continuing their push to increase veterans’ long-term care options, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) teamed up to introduce bipartisan legislation to expand veterans’ access to assisted living services.
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 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—allowing aging veterans to live more independently while saving taxpayer dollars. The pilot program would be conducted at six Veterans Integrated Services Networks (VISNs) nationwide, with at least two program sites located in rural or highly rural areas and two sites at State Veterans Homes.
“Our veterans deserve options when it comes to their earned health care, which is why I’m pushing VA to take a closer look at expanding access to assisted living services, particularly in rural states like Montana,” said Chairman Tester. “Our bipartisan bill will pave the way for VA to start offering veterans the option to receive long-term care at assisted living facilities—allowing veterans to maintain independence while also saving taxpayer dollars. This is a necessary step in taking care of the folks who fought for our freedoms, and I’ll always fight to defend them.”
“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 owe it to every one of our veterans to ensure they get the care they have earned long after their service ends—and that includes making sure they are able to get the care and services they need to be able to live independently,” said Senator Murray. “This legislation would make a big difference for so many veterans in Washington state and all across our country by expanding their options and getting them the long term care that works best for them. We have to fulfill the promise we make to our veterans after they sacrificed so much for our country, and that’s exactly what this bill would help do.”
“Our men and women in uniform have made incredible sacrifices to defend our country,” said Senator Rounds. “As our veteran population increases in age, it is crucial they have access to adequate long-term care options. This bipartisan legislation would expand veterans’ access to assisted living services, especially those living in rural areas. We have a responsibility to make sure our veterans receive the care they have earned, and I am pleased to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fulfill that duty.”
Currently, VA is not allowed to pay for room and board fees for veterans living at assisted living facilities—preventing many veterans from utilizing this long-term care option. This pilot program will save taxpayer dollars by allowing eligible veterans to access the appropriate level of care for their needs at assisted living facilities, instead of having to seek more costly care at nursing homes.
The Senators’ bill received strong backing from various Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and stakeholders nationwide.
“America’s veterans fought for our freedoms, and it is time that we pay them back with the freedom to choose where they age,” said Rose Hughes, Executive Director of the Montana Health Care Association. “The Montana Health Care Association (MHCA) commends Senator Tester for reintroducing the Expanding Veterans' Options for Long Term Care Act, which would allow veterans to access care in assisted living communities. For too long, veterans have been limited in their choice of care, but this legislation finally sets the stage for providing them access to the full continuum of long-term residential services and allowing them to choose the care setting that meets their needs and preferences. Our veterans deserve no less. The MHCA fully supports S. 495 and looks forward to it being passed and signed into law.”
“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) 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. “With the current crisis of nursing home closures in areas across rural America, 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 leading organizations that represent the assisted living profession applaud the leadership of Sen Tester, Moran, Murray and Rounds for introducing this legislation,” said a coalition of senior living organizations, including the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), Argentum, LeadingAge, and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL). “This pilot program makes sense for a number of reasons: it offers a new option in long term care for veterans, creates significant savings for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and will demonstrate the numerous benefits of assisted living. The VA’s daunting cost estimates for long term care, both current and in the future illustrate the need for policies that mitigate the significant financial burden. We are encouraged by this legislation to jump start these efforts.”
“The Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act is groundbreaking legislation that would authorize VA to support assisted living programs for aging and disabled veterans who would otherwise require more expensive nursing home care,” said National Association of State Veterans Homes (NASVH) President Whitney Bell. “NASVH strongly supports this innovative legislation to create new long-term care options, which includes assisted living pilot programs at state veterans homes. We thank Senators Tester and Moran for their leadership and steadfast support of America’s heroes.”
“AARP, on behalf of our 38 million members and all older Americans nationwide, is pleased to support the Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act,” said AARP Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Bill Sweeney. “We applaud the bipartisan work of Senators Tester, Moran, Murray and Rounds to give veterans more options for how and where they can get the long-term care they need.”
“MOAA is grateful to Senators Tester, Moran, Murray, and Rounds for re-introducing the Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act started in the last Congress,” said Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) President and CEO Lt Gen Brian Kelly. “This provides VA the critical flexibility for a pilot program to help provide essential care and support services to a rapidly growing population of aging or disabled veterans who are not able to live at home. VA has acknowledged the value of rebalancing its long-term care services and this program will help give the department the authority to do so.”
“Despite the large population of aging veterans who need increased access to long-term care options, VA cannot directly pay for a veterans’ care in an assisted living facility,” said Paralyzed Veterans of America's Associate Executive Director for Government Relations Heather Ansley. “The Expanding Veterans' Options for Long Term Care Act would allow VA to pilot the benefit of the department paying for this care. Expanding the types of long-term care options VA can pay for will help veterans and VA alike by allowing veterans to benefit from lower-cost care options, which helps more veterans receive needed assistance. We thank Senators Tester, Moran, Murray, and Rounds for their efforts to ensure veterans have greater access to long-term care through VA.”
“On behalf of IAVA, I express my appreciation to Sens. Tester, Moran, and Murray, and Rounds 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.”
“It is imperative that the Department of Veterans Affairs is prepared for the significant influx of veterans expected to become eligible for long-term care over the next two decades,” said Disabled American Veterans National Commander Joe Parsetich. “One way to ensure these veterans are able to live their lives as independently as possible is by providing those 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 Senators Tester, Moran, Murray, and Rounds for introducing this important legislation.”