Golden, Pingree Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Access to Care for Veterans, Protect State Veterans Homes

August 19, 2020
Press Release
Bill would protect Maine vets’ access to residential care by making more veterans eligible for reimbursed care at MVH facilities

WASHINGTON — Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) and Republican Congressman Don Young (AK-AL) introduced the bipartisan State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act today. The bill would allow more veterans, particularly those with early onset dementia, to receive affordable residential care at veterans homes across the country. Golden, Pingree, and Young’s legislation would remove newly enforced VA eligibility requirements that have caused some veterans to seek residential care outside the veterans homes system or to pay more from their own pockets.

By relaxing the VA’s requirements, the legislation would help more veterans receive affordable care closer to their communities and would strengthen Maine Veterans Homes facilities, which face a sharp decline in revenue if the newly tightened eligibility requirements continue. 

“Thousands of my fellow veterans have turned to Maine Veterans Homes for affordable residential care when they need it. And as part of our country’s thanks for their service, the VA has reimbursed Veterans Homes for a portion of the costs associated with that care,” said Congressman Golden. “Now, the VA is adding red tape that keeps deserving veterans out of Veterans Homes and denies reimbursements for existing patients. This bill would force the VA to relax the requirements it is imposing on Veterans Homes, allowing more vets to get the care they need and helping these facilities continue to serve our country’s bravest men and women for years to come.”

“I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to address the long-term care needs of our veterans and their families. Our aging veterans, particularly those with early onset dementia, deserve comprehensive access to affordable residential care with support from the VA,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “Our brave men and women in uniform put their lives on the line for our nation and they and their families shouldn’t have to jump through hoops or dig deep into their pockets to receive essential health care.” 

Alaska is home to thousands of veterans who risked their lives on behalf of our country, said Congressman Young. Supporting these heroic men and women should be our top priority. State-level Veterans Homes are critical to ensuring our heroes' health and well-being, but federal bureaucracy is putting these veterans at risk. I am proud to join Representatives Pingree and Golden on legislation to prevent red tape at the VA from imposing onerous burdens on the Veterans Homes that many Alaskans depend on. Supporting my fellow veterans is one of my highest priorities, and I will keep working in Congress to ensure that our country always stands with those who served.

Under the newly enforced rules, veterans must meet eight eligibility criteria for the VA to provide reimbursements for care at veterans homes. Golden, Pingree, and Young’s bill would amend these rules to require only four of the eight current criteria to be deemed eligible, decreasing the financial burden of caring for these veterans for families and state veterans homes.

A companion bill, sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and cosponsored by Senator Angus King (I-ME), has been introduced in the Senate. 

The current criteria to be reimbursed for domiciliary care means that veterans must be able to dress themselves, feed themselves, participate in some work assignments, perform daily tasks like brushing teeth and bathing, make decisions about their desire to remain in care, as well as three other requirements. These criteria are especially difficult for veterans with early onset dementia, many of whom may have been able to receive care previously, but may now be deemed ineligible. While these veterans may be eligible for care at other facilities, the already high demand at Togus has left many families without options.

Golden and Pingree had previously joined the Maine delegation to write to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie about veterans who could lose access to residential care under stricter enforcement of these requirements.

You can read the full text of the bill here.