Washington, D.C. — Following unanimous passage by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act will be sent to the President to be signed into law. The legislation was ultimately passed as part of a broad veteran benefits improvements package, the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020. The bipartisan legislation, authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), will address a current gap in care for veterans in Maine living with early-stage dementia. Representatives Jared Golden (D-ME) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced companion legislation in the House. The State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act also passed the Senate as stand-alone legislation on December 8.
Maine Veterans’ Homes (MVH) has provided domiciliary care for veterans with early-stage dementia in its homes since 2004, but newly enforced Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) eligibility requirements have limited access for many of these veterans. The State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act will address this by providing the VA with additional flexibility to allow veterans with early-stage dementia to receive this care.
“In Maine, we lead the way in caring for our veterans. For more than 40 years, Maine Veterans’ Homes has been a vital part of our State’s commitment to our heroes. My father, Donald Collins, a decorated World War II veteran, was cared for by the Veterans’ Home in Caribou at the end of his life, so I know firsthand the compassion and care that Maine Veterans’ Homes provide,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan legislation will provide the flexibility needed to ensure that veterans with early-stage dementia do not fall through the cracks and that the VA can help address the growing needs for assistance for these patients.”
“Maine’s veterans stepped up and answered the call to protect our state and our nation, and we have a responsibility to repay them with gratitude and the highest-quality care available,” said Senator King. “For decades, Maine Veterans’ Homes has helped our state fulfill that duty to our veterans, and this legislation will ensure they have the flexibility needed to continue to perform their vital services.”
“Bureaucrats in Washington are trying to enforce a misguided rule on Maine Veterans Homes that would not only take away medical care from some veterans, but also the roof over their heads,” said Congressman Golden. “The consequences for many of these vets, some of whom have dementia, are really serious and unacceptable to myself and my colleagues. I’m proud to work with the Maine delegation to get this bill across the finish line.”
“No one should be denied the care they need. I’m proud this bill will help Maine veterans who are living with early-stage dementia access care in state veterans’ homes. The Maine State Veterans Homes are well-equipped to support veterans with dementia, and I’m glad we’re taking steps to correct oversights that have previously prevented important care,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
“MVH provided early dementia care to more than 150 veterans daily for nearly 20 years when these veterans were suddenly deemed ineligible for domiciliary care. While the VA grandfathered existing veterans, nearly 40 veterans have been denied eligibility since January. This legislation will correct a decades old administrative oversight that has negatively impacted Maine veterans and their families. MVH thanks Senators Collins and King and Representatives Golden and Pingree for their advocacy on behalf of Maine veterans, and all of our nation’s veterans, by advancing this important legislation through Congress,” said Kelley Kash, CEO, Maine Veterans’ Homes.
The State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act will allow the VA to waive certain eligibility requirements to allow veterans with early-stage dementia to be cared for in state veterans’ homes when it is in the best interest of the veteran. Specifically, the legislation will require VA to implement a waiver authority, allowing the VA to grant domiciliary care per diem payments for veterans who meet at least half of the VA’s current eligibility requirements or if such a waiver would be in the veteran’s best interest. This will provide the flexibility to ensure this vulnerable group of veterans do not fall through the cracks and that VA can help address the growing needs for assistance for these patients.