March 31, 2015
BANGOR, ME – During a tour of the Maine Veterans Home (MVH) in Bangor this morning, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) called on Congress to maintain funding for construction grants to improve infrastructure at veterans homes across the country. The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget would reduce that funding – which is provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and supports states as they seek to expand care through new or improved facilities – by $10 million dollars, from $90 to $80 million.
“Our six veterans homes across the state, including this one in Bangor, serve thousands of Maine veterans every year, providing them with the type of long-term, high-quality care that their service and sacrifice deserves,” Senator King said. “But with more and more veterans seeking care at Maine Veterans Homes, now is not the time to cut the vital funding that helps keep them up-and-running. It’s imperative that Congress, at the very least, maintain these construction grants so that veterans homes across Maine can continue to upgrade their facilities and better serve the growing needs of our state’s veterans population.”
“Currently, there is approximately $1 billion in approved and proposed State Veterans Homes projects across the nation waiting for matching VA funding,” noted Kelley Kash, Maine Veterans’ Homes CEO. “In Maine, we have identified another $200M in projects over the next 10-15 years to replace, upgrade, or expand all of our facilities to meet mandated changes in long-term care delivery. Continued funding from the federal government is critical to help seeing those upgrades through.”
Senator King’s call today follows a recent letter to the heads of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in which he requested that the Committee rebuff the President’s reduction and preserve the current $90 million in funding. In his letter, Senator King noted that State Veterans Homes, like the six across Maine, provide care to approximately 53 percent of the VA’s long-term care population at a cost equal to approximately 16 percent of the VA’s long-term care annual budget.
MVH cares for more than 1,600 veterans and 400 eligible spouses annually in six facilities, which are located in Augusta, Caribou, Scarborough, Bangor, South Paris, and Machias. In 2013 the Scarborough Veterans Home received a $419,557 grant that helped cover renovation costs for the facility’s heating and air conditioning systems, rooms, and windows.
Later today, Senator King will tour the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Bangor Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Bangor where he will meet with veteran patients, staff, and administrators to discuss the important role CBOCs plays in delivering high-quality care to veterans in rural Maine and how Congress can continue to support them in that mission. Accompanying Senator King will be Ryan Lilly, the Director of VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus.