The Department of Veterans Affairs took a step toward improving access to skilled nursing care in rural areas, announcing the development of new rules that would encourage the construction of State Veterans Homes in underserved regions.
Under updated grant regulations, the VA would incorporate demand for long-term care in rural areas as part of its award process. The department currently uses a combination of existing nursing-home beds and veteran demographics when deciding how it doles out grant money to states for the facilities.
“Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for some rural areas to compete for VA State Home Construction Grants,” the VA said in a press release.
State Veterans Homes offer nursing care, adult day care, and other services for military veterans and their families. Though the VA provides funding, individual states construct and operate the facilities, with the exact rules and services varying by location; for instance, some states restrict access only to veterans, while others allow spouses and parents of those killed in action to use the facilities.
In order to receive the grant cash, states must demonstrate that they can keep the homes at 90% capacity, VA spokesperson Tatjana Christian told Skilled Nursing News in an e-mail. Last year, the VA provided $80 million in funding for the facilities, Christian said.
The VA expects to have completely updated rules regarding grant awards by the end of the year, and the department is currently working on the exact tweaks to existing policy, according to Christian.
“We want to remove the red tape,” VA secretary David Shulkin said in the statement announcing the initiative. “Veterans in rural areas need to be able to get nursing home care when it’s needed as close as possible to their homes, families, and friends.”
The VA’s move isn’t the first proposal aimed at improving skilled nursing care for retired service members introduced this summer: Late last month, a pair of U.S. senators introduced a bill that would expand veterans’ access to long-term care by changing the rules regarding provider agreements.
Written by Alex Spanko