VA shortfall to hurt veterans' LTC eligibility?

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Nursing home operators are concerned that the VA's $1 billion budget shortfall could result in growing support for the president's proposal to limit veterans' eligibility for long-term care.

President Bush has proposed confining long-term care services to veterans who were injured or disabled from active duty or with severe disabilities, those who require care after hospitalization, or veterans who require hospice or respite care. Such a plan would save $496 million, according to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson.

But the proposal could deprive 14,000 veterans who now receive care in nursing homes, said Bob Shaw, legislative director of the National Association of State Veterans Homes. Last month, VA officials testified that the healthcare deficit could reach $1 billion in fiscal year 2005 and $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2006.

This week, the Bush administration asked Congress for $300 million for veterans' healthcare – an addition to the $975 million already requested. Last month, the House passed a fiscal year 2005 supplemental appropriations bill that would provide the VA with $975 million. The Senate voted to add $1.5 billion in emergency funds for VA healthcare programs to the FY 2006 Interior Department appropriations bill.