WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- Some veterans in West Haven say they are in danger of losing their place to live.
Peaceful scenery surrounds the Seacrest Retirement Center, but minds are racing as veterans try to figure out where they're going to live.
"I packed my stuff to be homeless," said Robert Jackson.
"I like it here, but it's too costly for me, I'm going to have to move out," said fellow veteran Vincent Lynch.
"I am just disgusted," said Bonnie Lynch.
Bonnie is Vincent's wife. She says on Friday, they got a letter from the Associate Director for the VA Connecticut Healthcare System John Callahan, saying they are not legally authorized to pay for them to live at the Seacrest anymore. Blaming it on an administrative error.
"These guys fought for our country and to me they're just kicking them away and it's not right," Bonnie said.
She says Vincent desperately relies on the center to help manage his bipolar disorder.
"He needs a structured environment," she said. "Somebody there that gives him his medication where he has no control of it."
Others say the place changed their life.
"I came here in pretty bad shape and they've given me the opportunity to recover," Tom Whitmore said.
"I'm bipolar, you know, schizophrenic and alcoholic," said Peter Casagrand Jr. "When I'm home I don't eat right and I don't get the right nutrition. When you don't eat right, you don't get the right nutrition you don't feel good. You get sick."
The letter says the money will stop New Year's Eve, but Jackson isn't waiting until then.
"I was homeless for 20 years," Jackson said. "I'm not afraid of it. It's better than being told to leave in the middle of winter."
The following is the VA Connecticut Healthcare System's full statement on the relocation of rest home patients:
"VA discovered in late January 2013 that it had been placing veterans in rest home level of care facilities since 2006. Rest Home level of care is not authorized under the options available to VA medical centers for placement of veterans in need of full time nursing care. Only skilled nursing care facilities are authorized for these types of placements. This placement discrepancy was discovered during an audit and impacts three area rest homes.
While the veteran residents have specific benefits as a result of their military service, VA does not have the authority to pay for veterans to be in a residential level of care in rest homes or in assisted living facilities per regulations.
Options for the veterans impacted by this decision include remaining at their current facility at their own expense; if eligible, relocating to a skilled VA contracted nursing home at VA expense; or relocating to another residential facility, a family residence or other preferred option that best meets the veteran’s needs, at the veteran’s expense. VA social workers will work closely with these patients, their families and/or conservators to ensure appropriate residential relocations.
A process known as Equitable Relief was requested from the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of the patients, their families and the rest homes. Equitable relief ensures that the government will not attempt to recover any unauthorized payments made on behalf of these patients. The equitable relief approval process took longer than anticipated but protects these patients, their families and the rest homes from financial liability.
VA deeply regrets that this situation has occurred and will exhaust all possible options to ensure adequate and safe placement for the veterans who are impacted.
- This issue was discovered in late January and has been occurring since 2007.
- This issue has been under review since January and is completely unrelated to the government shutdown.
- VA Connecticut began notifying patients on Oct. 11, 2013.
- Payments made on behalf of these patients to the rest homes are scheduled to cease on Dec. 31, 2013.
- VA has no authorization to pay for care at rest homes or assisted living facilities based on regulation - 38, U.S.C. 1730.
- These patients were originally placed in the rest homes because they had exhausted their abilities to remain in their homes while receiving home care and other community-based services.
-While remaining at home was no longer an option, at the time of placement - these patients did not yet require a skilled nursing facility.
VA requested and was granted equitable relief from the Department of Veterans Affairs which ensures that the veterans, their families and the rest home will not have to repay the government for payments made on behalf of the veterans."
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