The federal government would be required to pay for disabled veterans to live in assisted-living facilities, under a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro.
She said the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs has told disabled veterans living in Connecticut retirement homes that the department would no longer cover their living expenses.
According to DeLauro, a Democrat who represents the 3rd District, the VA covered payment for such residential care for eligible veterans starting in 2000. But two years ago, veterans were told that the coverage would end. The congresswoman sought and received extensions of the benefits for affected Connecticut veterans who had asked for her help. The extensions expire Sept. 30, she said.
The bill pertains to residential care facilities, which serve people who can’t live independently, but don’t need to be in nursing homes with skilled nursing care.
DeLauro spoke about the issue at a news conference in Seacrest Nursing Center, a residential-care home in West Haven.
She said by ending the coverage, the VA was putting veterans “in harm’s way. That was unacceptable. They didn’t know where they were going to live.”
Lewis Bower, Seacrest’s owner, said in 2013, 23 of his residents were told that their VA housing payments would end.
“People got scared. Some moved to other parts of the country. Some moved to nursing homes” where their costs would be covered, he said. Six stayed and ultimately received extensions of their VA contracts with DeLauro’s help, he said.
DeLauro said she also obtained extensions for veterans living in Highvue Manor in Hamden.
Vincent Lynch, 72, a U.S. Navy veteran with bipolar disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), said Seacrest provides him with supervision of his medicines, in addition to housekeeping and other services. “We don’t function well in society,” he said.
Joseph Vignuolo, 55, a U.S. Army veteran with psychiatric problems, has lived at Seacrest for nine years after being homeless and losing a job. He said he needs the medication supervision and the protection of a residential facility because “psychiatric symptoms caused me to perform as a nonproductive adult.”
He said if he had to move, he wouldn’t be able to afford rent. “It’s no fun being homeless,” Vignuolo said.
Barry Cosgrove, 61, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran with heart disease and mental health issues, said “it would be difficult to live on my own.”
DeLauro said she also proposed an amendment to the pending Military Construction Bill that asks the VA to “provide equitable relief” to disabled veterans, such as those in residential care facilities. However, such relief wouldn’t be mandatory under the measure. The bill has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee and is expected to be overwhelmingly approved in the House this week, she said.
She said the bill requiring payment for residential care coverage would “allow veterans to choose where they live, the environment they want to live in, and the care they receive.” This would allow them to remain in “the place that they call home.”
She said the entire Connecticut Congressional delegation is supporting the bill.
DeLauro said veterans were sent off to service “with a blare of bugles.”
“We have a responsibility to care for you when you come home and not abandon you,” DeLauro said.