A 22 member legislative task force is crafting recommendations for a new Arkansas Veterans Home to replace one that closed down in Little Rock last November due to disrepair. Four cities were named as possible sites: Fort Smith, Russellville, Jacksonville and Benton. Little Rock was not on the list.
The group met at the Capitol Monday to review criteria such as size, location, and funding. Several members brought up assisting veterans who might not fall under existing funding structures.
Committee Chair Senator Jane English, of North Little Rock, said it may mean asking for additional funds.
“What does it really cost to have other kinds of folks in the home, who have some mental problems and are maybe not covered by Medicaid, but might be covered by some other program? So that we make sure that we are operating, it’s a business, this is a business, so is it something the state’s going to need to support with some funding as well?” said English.
Some panel members suggested the priority needs to be providing services for all veterans, even if that means more state funding for those not traditionally covered.
Mike Hampton, a veteran who is part of the committee, said he is concerned about admittance criteria and the possibility of the state overlooking needs of Veterans not traditionally covered.
“There is a tremendous large group of Veterans that are not meeting this 70% disability, they’re not able to hold jobs down, and they have a tremendous care need out there. It’s like, okay we’re going to address these people that are already being taken care of, have access to facilities, and the one’s that need it the worst? They’re getting shoved aside," said Hampton.
The state Department of Veterans Affairs Director Cissy Rucker, and others, appeared sympathetic with Hampton but said additional support beyond federal criteria requires the state to provide more services and funds.
The next meeting is in September, at which time the task force will continue to craft recommendations for an October 31st meeting of the General Assembly.