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May 21, 2024

Aging services coalition urges passage of veterans assisted living legislation

McKnights Senior Living

A coalition of long-term care, veterans and Alzheimer’s organizations joined in urging Congress to pass legislation expanding access to assisted living settings for eligible veterans.

The four major long-term care organizations — American Seniors Housing Association, Argentum, LeadingAge and National Center for Assisted Living —- co-signed a letter May 15 with national Alzheimer’s and veterans’ organizations in asking House of Representatives and Senate leadership for support of HR 8371, the Senator Elizabeth Dole 21st Century Veterans Healthcare and Benefits Improvement Act.

The proposed legislation includes several bipartisan and bicameral proposals to reform and improve the delivery of healthcare, benefits and services at the Department of Veterans Affairs. At the center of the proposal is S 495 / HR 1815, the Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act, which would implement a three-year pilot program to assess the effectiveness of allowing veterans to access assisted living for their long-term care needs.

The bill was introduced May 14 and referred to the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs, Natural Resources and Armed Services.

The coalition said the Veterans Administration has vocalized challenges related to caring for aging veterans and the need to rebalance its long-term care programs. They said this proposal would give the department the authority to do that by offering additional options.

“It authorizes the VA to offer assisted living settings for aging and disabled veterans who would otherwise require more expensive nursing home care, thus giving the veteran more options for how and where they can get the long-term care they need,” the letter read. “It provides the VA critical flexibility to address the needs of a rapidly growing population of aging or disabled veterans who are not able to live at home, and future cost savings will help more veterans receive the assistance they need.”

Congress typically passes a package of veterans bills each session, but it did not achieve that goal last year, ASHA previously told McKnight’s Senior Living. Bills promoting the assisted living pilot program were reintroduced in 2023 after going nowhere in 2022. A representative from the VA told a House committee last year that the VA supports a pilot program under certain conditions. 

Other stakeholder organizations that signed the letter were the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, National Association of State Veterans Homes, National Rural Health Association and Paralyzed Veterans of America. DAV, or Disabled American Veterans, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America also previously signaled their support for the assisted living pilot program.

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