Gov. seeks faster fund­ing for veter­ans homes

Ducey’s let­ter could boost plans for Yuma fa­cil­ity

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY BLAKE HER­ZOG @BLAKEHERZOG

Gov. Doug Ducey has writ­ten and shared a let­ter sent to the U.S. Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs late last week to ask for speed­ier fund­ing for two state veter­ans homes pro­vid­ing longterm care, one of which is planned for Yuma.

Ducey said the 60-bed fa­cil­i­ties planned for here and Flagstaff se­cured a com­bined $19.2 mil­lion in re­quired state fund­ing in 2015, but since then the state has been wait­ing for fed­eral fund­ing to be al­lo­cated, as in­fla­tion con­tin­ues to eat away at the ex­ist­ing bud­get.

“As you know, the longer it takes to break ground on these projects, the more ex­pen­sive they be­come,” the let­ter to Sec­re­tary of Vet­eran Af­fairs David Shulkin says.

It con­tin­ues: “I know there are many pri­or­i­ties across the coun­try, and veter­ans in all cor­ners of Amer­ica have needs. How­ever, I re­spect­fully re­quest that your of­fice work to pri­or­i­tize these projects in our state, so we can pro­vide the nec­es­sary ser­vices to the veter­ans that so bravely and coura­geously served our coun­try and de­fended our free­doms.”

Ari­zona’s two ex­ist­ing state veter­ans homes in Phoenix and Tuc­son have a com­bined 320 beds. They pro­vide skilled nurs­ing and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive care for ag­ing or chron­i­cally ill veter­ans and their spouses. Ducey points out that both Yuma and Flagstaff are more than 100 miles away from the near­est veter­ans home, mean­ing pa­tients can be forced to move far away from their fam­i­lies to re­ceive the care they need.

Ducey cited VA es­ti­mates which have found Ari­zona will be short 1,200 beds for meet­ing its veter­ans’ needs for this kind of care, and added state of­fi­cials also want to build an­other home to serve the north­west­ern part of the state, most likely in King­man.

The State Vet­eran Home lo­ca­tions are op­er­ated by the Ari­zona Depart­ment of Veter­ans Ser­vices and funded by the fed­eral Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af-

fairs.

Those who work with Yuma County’s vet­eran pop­u­la­tion said they’re see­ing the need for a lo­cal fa­cil­ity close-up, ev­ery day.

“It’s just crazy, We’re deal­ing with home­less veter­ans, veter­ans who need places to stay,” said Del Hamil­ton, out­reach spe­cial­ist for the Yuma VA Cen­ter.

Miguel Vil­lal­pando, project

di­rec­tor for the Yuma of­fice of Na­tional Com­mu­nity Health Part­ners, said out of the roughly 100 veter­ans the agency serves each year, about 90 of them are home­less or in dan­ger of los­ing their hous­ing.

Its clients’ av­er­age age is about 52, so a fair num­ber of them could qual­ify for a vet­eran home if it were built here, he said. “Our goal is to get as many of them back on their feet as pos­si­ble, of­ten all they need is a help­ing hand,”

he said. “But I think there are a num­ber of oth­ers who I think could ben­e­fit from it.”

The Yuma state vet­eran home is to be built on prop­erty on Av­enue 6E deeded by the city of Yuma for that pur­pose, though the agree­ment con­tains a clause giv­ing it back to the city if noth­ing is built within three years, which would take ef­fect around the end of this year.

The project ranks no. 44 on the VA’s most re­cent

pri­or­ity rank­ing of vet­eran home projects, both new con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tions. In Au­gust the agency an­nounced it will be re­vis­ing the reg­u­la­tions by which the con­struc­tion projects are rated, ex­pected to help ru­ral ar­eas in the rank­ing process by mak­ing dis­tance from other fa­cil­i­ties part of the scor­ing process.

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