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funding must be found for a new Veterans’ home

The demand for quality long term veteran care in our country is growing at an astounding rate. The nation faces the largest aging veteran population in its history. Today close to 40% of all veterans are over the age of 65.

Arkansas is home to over 245,000 men and women who served in the armed forces. Many of our veterans are beyond retirement age.

There are thousands of veterans who chose to spend this part of their lives with “comrades” from former active-duty. But currently our state has only such facility available. The Veterans’ home in Fayetteville is a full time nursing care facility with 108 beds.

The Little Rock Veterans’ Home closed last year because extreme disrepair in the facility.

That is why the 89th General Assembly made it a top priority to not only find funding for a new Veterans’ home, but to do extensive research on the exact needs of our veterans and how the state can best care for them.

With unanimous support, we passed Act 165. This law is the enabling legislation to build a new 150 bed facility for our veterans.

We also agreed divert $7.5 million from our state surplus to help build the home. That will be used as the state’s matching funds to obtain another $18 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

But another important piece of legislation to move the project forward was the creation of the Arkansas Veterans’ Home Task Force.

This task force met for the first time this week. It is comprised of 22 members including representatives of various veterans organizations, our four members of the U.S. House of Representatives and our two Senators or their designees, the Director of Arkansas Department of Veterans’ Affairs and several members appointed by the Speaker of the House and the Senate Pro Tempore.

Over the next several months this task force will be meeting regularly to study the issues relating to the opening of the new Veterans’ home and develop specific recommendations for the legislature to review.

The study will include possible site locations, the number of Arkansas veterans who have a need for such a facility and services that should be made available.

The legislation that created the task force states their report must be submitted to the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs by October 31, 2013.

The meetings will be held at the State Capitol and the public is welcome to attend. The next meeting will be held June 6 at 10am in room 149.

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