Bill to Expand Access to Care for Veterans with Early-Stage Dementia, Protect State Veterans Homes Passes Senate

Bipartisan Bill was Introduced by Senators Collins, King, & Sullivan

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) to address a current gap in care for veterans in Maine living with early-stage dementia.  The State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act now awaits consideration by the House of Representatives.

 

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 would 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 bill would 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.”

 

“This bipartisan legislation grants much-needed flexibility to the VA system in order to make sure that our veterans get the health care they need and have earned—and State Veterans Homes are a critical part of that health care delivery,” said Senator Sullivan. “This is good news for Alaska’s veterans and those who have served our country across the nation, some of whom are falling through the cracks due to outdated criteria. I was pleased to work with Senators Collins and King and with our veterans community in Alaska on this important bill.”

 

“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 for their advocacy on behalf of Maine veterans, and all of our nation’s veterans, by advancing this important legislation through the Senate,”  said Kelley Kash, CEO, Maine Veterans’ Homes.       

 

“This bill would allow State Veterans Homes across the nation to provide much needed care and support to veterans with early stages of dementia and other special needs who are currently deemed ineligible because of outdated and incongruous medical criteria,” said Melissa Jackson, President, National Association of State Veterans Homes.  “It's a win-win-win for the State homes, the VA, and most importantly, for veterans by expanding care options to help meet the growing demand early dementia and memory care services.”

 

The State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act would 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 bill would 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.

 

A companion bill, sponsored by Representatives Jared Golden (D-ME) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME), has been introduced in the House.

 

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