The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved this week the Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act, which is meant to expand options for veterans in need of long-term care. The bill, if ultimately signed into law as written, would expand access to home- and community-based programs as well as assisted living.

According to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act would:

  • Increase the expenditure cap for noninstitutional care alternative programs from 65% to 100% of nursing home care costs;
  • Expand access to home and community-based alternative care programs to veterans at all VA medical facilities, as well as to veterans living in US territories and Native American veterans enrolled in Indian Health Service or tribal health programs;
  • Require the creation of a centralized website to disseminate information and resources related to home- and community-based programs, and help veterans and caregivers determine their eligibility;
  • Require the VA to review staffing and resource needs, accessibility and other aspects of the Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care and Caregiver Support Program Office to make certain they are appropriately serving veterans and caregivers;
  • Create a pilot program to provide home health aide services for veterans who reside in communities with a shortage of home health aides; and
  • Require the VA to establish a smooth handoff process for veterans and caregivers who are discharged from or ineligible for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

“As the number of aging veterans continues to increase, the VA needs to be prepared to efficiently and sustainably care for this community,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement

“Our bipartisan bill will pave the way for VA to start offering veterans the option to receive long-term care at assisted living facilities, allowing veterans to maintain independence while also saving taxpayer dollars,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), also a co-sponsor, added.

In a letter last month to the chair and ranking member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Vicki Hoak, CEO of the Home Care Association of America, noted that allowing the VA to offer home care would alleviate the strain on nursing homes, which often have limited capacity to serve veterans with special needs, especially those needing dementia, ventilator or behavioral healthcare.

Meanwhile, another bill, the Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act, would create a small pilot program to offer eligible veterans who participate the option to have their care needs met in an assisted living community rather than at a Department of Veterans Affairs state home. The bill was introduced by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jon Tester (D-MT), along with Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) after it went nowhere in the last Congress.

In a combined letter of support last month from the American Seniors Housing Association, Argentum, the National Center for Assisted Living and LeadingAge to the bill’s sponsors, the aging services leaders called the bill a “commonsense approach” for veterans.

“This is an economically sound and sensible approach to demonstrate the benefits of assisted living to not only the resident veterans, but to their families and friends,” the letter reads.