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March 01, 2024

King, Cramer Introduce Bill to Protect Veteran’s Long Term Care

Their bipartisan bill would assess the VA’s ability to meet the needs of elderly veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, have introduced a bill that would require the VA to study the risks to elderly veterans of a proposed rule by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would unsustainably change staffing ratios at nursing homes. The bill requires an assessment of the VA’s ability to continue meeting the long-term care (LTC) needs of veterans at VA and VA affiliated nursing homes, with a focus on rural areas, if the rule were to be implemented as currently proposed. It would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit a report on the VA’s findings to Congress within 60 days of the bill becoming law.

On September 1, 2023, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a rule that would mandate new minimum staffing standards for LTC facilities. According to CMS, 75-percent of nursing homes would have to increase staffing to comply with the proposed standards — a threshold especially hard to reach in rural areas, which already face historic staffing shortages.

“It is one thing to create a policy that looks good on paper, but it is quite another to examine the effects that policy has on the day-to-day lives of Maine veterans,” said Senator King. “While the CMS rule aims to improve the quality of long-term care for veterans by increasing staffing requirements, this one-size-fits-most policy could cause facilities in rural areas to shut down. This bill will allow us to take a closer look at the impact that the proposed CMS rule would have on VA and VA affiliated nursing homes so we can best protect access to long-term care options for veterans in Maine.”

“Senator King and I are simply asking the VA to conduct a study to prove what we already know: this misguided proposal will negatively impact veterans access to long-term care services,” said Senator Cramer. “Every state and community are different, and setting an unrealistic, national standard for all nursing homes and facilities serving veterans will further inflame existing staffing shortages and deprive veterans of the long-term care options they earned.”

Senator King has previously raised concerns about the broad impact of this potential rule on the ability of LTC facilities to continue providing necessary care to aging veterans. In an October 2023 letter to the head administrator of CMS, he noted that the proposed staffing mandate may inadvertently cause the widespread shutdown of rural nursing facilities, both in Maine and across the country.

A member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator King is committed to ensuring veterans and their families receive their earned benefits and support from the VA. Senator King has repeatedly pressed the VA on the need to hire and retain more staff in order to meet the demand for veteran care. He also spearheaded the passage of legislation to better track and study servicemember suicides by job assignment. Senator King has also worked to properly honor and recognize the sacrifices of Purple Heart medal recipientsprotect veterans from fraud, and expand veteran assisted living services.


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