Harrisburg – State Sen. Kim Ward (R-39) today questioned state officials about a policy that allows the state to seize the assets of veterans who died at state veterans homes.
Ward requested that the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20), hold the public hearing after several newspaper reports indicated several area veterans and families were not aware the state could recover the cost of care from the veterans’ estates.
The senator also questioned Department of Military and Veterans Affairs officials about complaints from veterans that some veterans’ homes residents faced restricted access to their savings accounts established when they entered the home.
“Today’s hearing was an important step toward ensuring that veterans and their families are treated fairly and with the respect they deserve. But, I continue to have concerns about the program and strongly support a performance audit.” said Ward. “I find it despicable that we can spend $20 million a year to transport methadone users, but we don’t have $23 million to take care of the veterans who have served and sacrificed for our country. Once again we have demonstrated that our government’s priorities are all screwed up.”
Brigadier General Michael Gould, Deputy Adjutant General for Veterans Affairs, told the committee that resident of state veterans homes pay a monthly fee for their care, based on income and ability to pay. The remainder of the cost is collected from the estate after the resident dies and after funeral costs are covered.
He said the $23 million recovered through estates amounts to 13 percent of the total cost to operate the homes. Over the last five years, the state has filed about 3,100 estate claims, many for less than $100, officials said.
Also appearing before the committee was Carole Procope, who manages a similar program at the state Department of Public Welfare.
The committee may hold additional hearings on the subject, and could call for a performance audit of the Real Estate Recovery Program. The panel will also receive a list of names of families that it can contact to independently verify information.
Contact: Rob Ritson