Lawmakers try to get more funding for veterans nursing homes
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
DENVER (AP) ” Amid questions about patient neglect and crumbling buildings at Colorado veterans homes, the state House on Wednesday debated proposals to allocate more money for the facilities.
“As a nurse and a legislator, I’m appalled at the condition of the facilities housing our own veterans,” said Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada. “We’re going to make sure that those who serve our country will get the quality care they need and deserve.”
Lawmakers said they were shocked to learn of the problems at state-run veterans nursing homes. A patient fell and died at one facility and 42 residents developed bed sores at another, according to reports reviewed by The Associated Press that were filed with the federal Veterans Affairs Department.
U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said his department would work with the state to bring the homes up to standard. Nicholson was in Colorado Wednesday to discuss plans for a new federal veterans hospital.
The House was considering a proposal that would take $1 million from college aid programs and move it to the State Veterans Trust Fund, which lawmakers raided in 2003 when the economy slumped and the budget was pinched.
The new plan would take $804,000 from need-based college grants, $18,000 from merit-based grants and $178,000 from work-study programs.
Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, said college students can find jobs to supplement their income, and veterans need the money. Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, said transferring the money from college aid to veterans homes would hurt Iraq war veterans who want to go to college.
Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, said “pitting higher education against veterans issues is out of line.”
Gagliardi introduced an amendment to the state budget to ensure $917,095 already appropriated for renovations at the state veterans home in Homelake was spent as intended.
Homelake, which is also in line for an additional $2.2 million from the federal government, had problems with asbestos and lead paint, poor emergency response systems and a lack of grab-bars in bathing areas, according to the reports reviewed by the AP.
Gagliardi’s proposal was the last of 74 budget amendments scheduled for debate Wednesday.
Homelake, about 160 miles south of Denver, has 46 veterans living in 25 duplex cottages built in the 1900s. State officials said they have not been able to upgrade the structures because of spending limits imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Some of the Homelake center’s buildings are so unstable they had to be closed, officials said.
John Johnson, division director of the office of State Veterans and Nursing Homes, said most of the Homelake problems have been fixed except for building maintenance.
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