Hearing exposes "serious challenges" for veterans' LTC

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs faces serious challenges in meeting the long-term care needs of the nation's veterans, according to public officials and representatives of veterans groups speaking during a Senate hearing last week.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs will spend nearly $2.4 billion this year in care to 34,000 veterans each day, the VA is "scratching the surface of long-term care provided to our nation's veterans," according to Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, during the May 12 hearing.

The hearing was held in an effort to assess the availability of long-term care services for the nation's nearly 25 million veterans. The VA has proposed in its 2006 budget limiting coverage for nursing home care only to veterans with military service-connected conditions. The department also proposed cutting the number of nursing home beds in VA facilities by nearly half and limiting federal payments made to state facilities serving veterans.

The VA will need nearly 45,500 nursing home beds in 2013 to meet the needs of the nation's veterans, estimated Fred Cowell, a spokesman for the Paralyzed Veterans of America.