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July 12, 2023

King Demands VA Comply with Law to Reimburse Maine Veterans’ Homes

“This wasn’t a suggestion … this was a law, and we are still waiting”

WASHINGTON, D.C.– U.S. Senator Angus King, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today urged the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to resume payments for domiciliary care for veterans with dementia as permitted by law. Congress passed legislation in 2021 authorizing the VA to cover the costs of domiciliary care after the Department stopped reimbursements for the long-supported care in 2019. Now, with organizations like Maine Veterans’ Homes (MVH) forced to carry the financial burden, King demanded in a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing that the agency follow Congressional direction and authorize reimbursements as quickly as possible.

In an exchange with Cynthia Gantt, the Deputy Director of the Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation within Patient Care Services at the VA, King suggested that the VA swiftly implement the domiciliary care law passed by Congress in 2021.

“One of the bills before the committee today involves the reimbursement for domiciliary care for veterans with dementia. And this is something that Maine Veterans’ Homes undertook. On January 5, 2021, the President signed the Johnny Isakson and David P. Rowe Veterans Health Care Act. It had in it Section 3007: “the VA to allow a waiver for eligible veterans to receive per diem payments for domiciliary care.” As of today, no rules have been issued by the Veterans Administration to implement this law,” began Senator King. “This wasn't a suggestion from the United States Congress. This was a law. And we are still waiting.”

“So I have a bill in before this committee that would mandate that the rules be issued. The Veterans’ Administration, for reasons that escape me, are opposing this rule. That takes a lot of nerve. Just issue the damn rule. If you're going to issue the rule, do it. Otherwise, we're going to pass this bill. But it's a damn shame that we have to pass a second bill to implement a bill that we already passed. So what's the problem here?” Senator King asked.

Gantt replied, “Senator, VA is not supporting this bill because we are actively, as you mentioned, working on—"

Define ‘active.’ It’s 2021. Let's see, we're two and a half years later. That's not very active. Eisenhower retook Europe in eleven months,” King proclaimed.

After receiving a clear answer from Gantt that the VA will swiftly implement the legislation, Senator King reaffirmed her commitment that the issue will be resolved in a matter of months.

King concluded, “I'm delighted to hear that, and I'm delighted to hear about the coordination, but the Veterans Homes the DAV, the VFW all support the bill that I'm talking about in order to move your agency to issue the rules so that we can give the veterans the care that they deserve. So as you can tell, this is not acceptable. And so you said actively, I'll take you at your word and consider that a commitment to move on this matter in the immediate future, and that means in the next several months.”

In May 2023, King and the entire Maine Congressional Delegation introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill to fast-track reimbursements from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to Maine Veterans’ Homes (MVH). In a previous hearing, King had also pressed VA Secretary Denis McDonough to follow Congressional guidance and authorize reimbursements as quickly as possible. The current delay has forced MVH, and in some cases veterans and their families, to pay out-of-pocket for the care costing approximately $130,000 per month and over $2.5 million since 2019.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator King works to oversee the VA and ensure the proper implementation of various programs, such as the PACT Act, the State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act, and the John Scott Hannon Act. Senator King hopes to help improve the Department’s capacity by investing in its workforce, facilities, and other modernization efforts.

Last year, Senator King conducted 11 interviews with Maine veterans as part of the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, an effort by the Library to collect, preserve and distribute the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. You can find or watch all of Senator King’s interviews HERE


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