Larson, CT House Members Urge VA Secretary to Allow 23 CT Veterans Choice to Stay In Current Retirement Homes
Washington, DC — Rep. John B. Larson (CT-01) and Connecticut's delegation to the House of Representatives today urged Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki to allow 23 Connecticut veterans at risk of losing their places in three retirement homes to stay in those homes, with coverage from the VA if they so choose. Veterans at the Seacrest Retirement Home in West Haven, Highview Manor in Hamden, and Mattatuck Health Care in Waterbury were recently notified by the VA Connecticut Healthcare System that, due to a VA error, care in these homes has erroneously been covered and will subsequently be ending at the end of the year.
"None of these veterans receiving VA benefits should face financial hardship through the removal of these benefits due to a VA failure," the representatives wrote. "While some of the veterans involved may choose to move into other facilities, others may not want to move out of the facilities that they have called home for several years. Moreover, in some cases, doing so may not be in the best interest of their mental or physical well-being. Accordingly, we strongly urge you to use your authority under 38 U.S.C. 503 to extend coverage indefinitely for those veterans that wish to stay in their homes beyond December 31, 2013, relief which we firmly believe would be 'equitable.'"
The full letter is as follows:
October 24, 2013
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20420
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
We write to express our strong objections to the treatment of 23 Connecticut veterans that have long received coverage from the Department of Veterans (VA) for care in their rest homes, but were recently informed by the VA that care will no longer be covered. It is imperative that this coverage continue indefinitely beyond the end of the year for any of these veterans that choose to continue to live in their homes.
As you know, the VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS) recently discovered that since 2001 it has been making unauthorized payments for 23 veterans residing in Seacrest Retirement Home in West Haven, Mattatuck Health Care in Waterbury, and Highvue Manor in Hamden. The error is the sole responsibility of the VA, which inadvertently combined the contracts associated with placement in these homes with contracted community nursing homes. The error was not just a one-time occurrence, but one that perpetuated itself with the VA continuing to offer contracts to the homes up until last year.
Moreover, the manner in which these 23 veterans were notified of the error, through a letter that said payments for them to stay in their home will cease on December 31, 2013 and giving them three options to make living arrangements is deeply troubling. These are elderly veterans, many with mental and physical disabilities, which have lived in these rest homes for years, in some cases over a decade. An abrupt change to their way of life through an error that was no fault of their own is not an acceptable outcome.
At this time, the VA is presenting these veterans with three options. Those that are medically eligible can be moved without personal expense to a VA contracted community nursing home. Those that choose to can stay in their current rest home at their own private expense. The VA can help facilitate a move for those that want to move to another facility, but not one contracted with the VA, though that may be at the veterans expense.
It is our understanding that you determined that VACHS shall not attempt to recover any payments from the rest homes or the impacted veterans under the authority provided to you under 38 U.S.C. 503, which allows the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in cases in which a veteran "suffered loss as a consequence of reliance upon a determination by the Department of eligibility or entitlement to benefits" to provide "such relief on account of such error as the Secretary determines is equitable." It is our further understanding that you are continuing to use this authority to cover these 23 veterans' expenses in these rest homes through December 31, 2013.
None of these veterans receiving VA benefits should face financial hardship through the removal of these benefits due to a VA failure. While some of the veterans involved may choose to move into other facilities, others may not want to move out of the facilities that they have called home for several years. Moreover, in some cases, doing so may not be in the best interest of their mental or physical well-being. Accordingly, we strongly urge you to use your authority under 38 U.S.C. 503 to extend coverage indefinitely for those veterans that wish to stay in their homes beyond December 31, 2013, relief which we firmly believe would be "equitable."
Given this situation is a result of a VA error it is incumbent on the VA to resolve this matter in a way that meets the wishes of all 23 of these veterans. We thank you for your prompt attention to this issue, and look forward to discussing it with you in the near future.