Friday, April 4, 2014
WALLA WALLA — Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a bill authorizing the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs to operate a veterans home in Walla Walla.
The signing in Olympia on Wednesday cleared another procedural hurdle in establishing the home.
Federal funding to build and operate the facility, however, still hangs in the balance, according to a news release from state Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, made an appeal for that funding in a recent hearing with Veterans Affairs officials in Washington, D.C.
A $21.8 million VA grant for the project was pulled after a longer-than-expected environmental review of the project. That led to missing a deadline to transfer the land for the home from the federal to the state veterans administration.
The law requires homes receiving money from the VA’s State Veterans Home Construction Grant Program to be owned by the state government.
The state plans to contribute $14.4 million to the project.
The home would be a 80-bed skilled-nursing facility providing long-term care for honorably discharged veterans, families, and Gold Star parents — those whose children died while serving in the armed forces.
Veterans and students from Pioneer Middle School looked on as Inslee signed the bill in Olympia, where it was introduced in 2013 and co-sponsored by Hewitt.
As proposed, the skilled nursing facility would create a fourth veterans home in the state and serve a 10-county area with a combined population of more than 50,000 veterans and families, where nearly 40 percent of the residents are age 65 or older, the news release said.
Sheila Hagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8322.