A bipartisan bill recently reintroduced to Congress seeks to support senior military veterans in living more independently as they age.
The number of U.S. military veterans aged 85 or older who will become eligible for nursing home care is anticipated to increase by more than 500 percent by 2041. Yet aging veterans who may not yet need the intense level of support that a nursing home provides are effectively prevented from pursuing assisted living as a long-term care option. This is because the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is not permitted to cover the cost of room and board in assisted living communities.
The Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long-Term Care Act, initially introduced in May 2022, proposes establishing a three-year pilot program that would allow aging veterans to choose between receiving care at a VA nursing home or an assisted living facility. Eligible participants would include senior veterans who are already receiving nursing home-level care paid for by the VA, as well as those who qualify for care in a nursing home or an assisted living facility.
“Our bill is a bipartisan approach to make sure that our veterans have access to affordable, high quality care later in life,” said U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), the bill’s sponsor and a former CIA officer who served during three tours in Iraq, in a news release. “I’m pleased that this pilot program will lay the groundwork for veterans to live their lives independently and without undue financial stress.”
As the bill’s proponents point out, assisted living costs are far less expensive than that of nursing homes – more than $69,000 less per veteran per year. In addition to giving veterans the opportunity to live more independently, the legislation therefore seeks to save taxpayer dollars.
Reps. David Trone (D-MD), Annie Kuster (D-NH), and Bryan Steil (R-WI) are co-leading the bill.