March 21, 2005
Jemarion Jones
(202) 639-6405

AFGE Protests Closing of Veterans Nursing Home Facility

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today denounced a plan by The Hefner (Salisbury) VA Medical Center (VAMC) to close a nursing home unit dedicated to the care of the nation’s aging veterans.

The Hefner VAMC, located in Salisbury, N.C., provides care to veterans in a 23-county area of the Central Piedmont region of North Carolina including Charlotte and Winston-Salem. The unit targeted for closure, a Geriatrics and Extended Care (G&EC) unit, provides long-term quality care for aging and chronically ill veterans. According to the Center’s management, budget constraints were partially to blame for the G&EC’s closure. Over the last several years, the VA in Salisbury has eliminated 120 nursing home care beds.

“Today veterans age 65 and over represent nearly 40 percent of the total veteran population, and the number of veterans age 85 and over is expected to nearly double in the coming years,” says AFGE President John Gage. “Yet despite this demand, the VA is closing a nursing home ward in Salisbury. It is shocking that we are turning away aging war heroes because we lack the resources to care for them.”

Cuts in veterans’ health care funding are expected to continue under the President’s FY 2006 budget. The Administration wants to reduce the average daily count of patients in VA nursing home and state nursing home beds by 12,670. The Administration is demanding these cuts despite the fact that Congress directed the VA to maintain a benchmark level of 13,391 beds in 1998 to meet the growing health care needs of the nation’s veterans.

To push the proposed cuts, the President has asked Congress to eliminate the benchmark requirement. If enacted, the President’s plan will reduce VA nursing home care capacity by 27 percent and reduce state VA nursing home care capacity by 51 percent.

“It’s a disgrace that our President wants to deprive our aging heroes of the dignified nursing home care they deserve,” says Gage. “The closing of nursing home units in Salisbury and other locations is just another way the administration shows its disregard for the brave men and women who have fought to protect the rights they are now being denied.”

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