Legislators skeptical of another veterans home | NevadaAppeal.com

Legislators skeptical of another veterans home

Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

The idea of a Northern Nevada veterans home, perhaps located in Carson City, drew criticism Tuesday from legislators because of problems the state had getting the Southern Nevada home up and running.

State Veterans Services Administrator Chuck Fulkerson asked lawmakers to approve $50,000 to study the need for a northern home, saying there are an estimated 61,000 veterans in the 13 counties it would serve and another 35,000 potential customers in neighboring counties of eastern California.

Assemblyman David Goldwater, D-Las Vegas, was sharpest in his criticism, suggesting the “university astronomy department do the feasibility study.”

“Isn’t one black hole enough? We had a real tough time with the veterans home in Southern Nevada,” he said. “We have veterans up here all the time complaining it’s unsafe and unsanitary, and now you want to repeat that?”

The state had numerous problems with the construction of the home and then more problems with operations once it opened. The home is now on its third director since opening and at least one veterans’ activist has urged that it be shut down until repairs can be made.

Fulkerson said there have been numerous unsubstantiated and false complaints about the home but that it is now operating much better with a new and well-qualified director.

He said it opened in August and now has 47 residents — 17 of them in the Alzheimer’s secure facility. He said the federal Veterans Administration will inspect later this month and that the facility should qualify for $14.60 a day for each resident back to October as well as qualifying for that stipend into the future.

Goldwater was joined in his skepticism by Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas.

“I’m not willing to spend $50,000 in general obligation bonding money on a study, and I do have some questions about the Southern Nevada nursing home that have to be answered before I’ll support another veterans home,” Rawson said.

Public Works Manager Dan O’Brien said the money is to study the potential need for a northern home and the options for buying, leasing or building the necessary facility. He said one of the options is to use a portion of Carson-Tahoe Hospital that the hospital operation is planning to vacate once a new hospital is built.

O’Brien stood up for Fulkerson, saying “Yes, we’ve had problems with the veterans home. Luckily, that’s behind us now.”

He said they would definitely look at the Carson-Tahoe facility and other facilities as well as having the private sector build a facility then lease it to the state. Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Sparks, said there is a potential site in a closed nursing facility near Washoe Medical Center.

Fulkerson said the number of veterans in Northern Nevada justifies a 152-bed hospital and, with California veterans near Nevada, they can show a need for 240 beds.

The subcommittee studying the proposed capital construction budgets took no action on the study funding.