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Rising Tide of Elderly Veterans Stressing VA’s Nursing Care Systems

Rising Tide of Elderly Veterans Stressing VA’s Nursing Care Systems

An elderly man entering a VA nursing home

Within the next five years, more than a million veterans will age into eligibility for Veterans Administration publicly-funded nursing homes and alternative nursing services. The cost of this care could rise sharply to more than $10 billion annually, a nearly 50 percent increase over current costs of $6 billion per year, during the same period.

The Veterans Administration runs 156 skilled nursing facilities across all 50 states.

“As veterans age, approximately 80 percent will develop the need for some long-term services and support,” Dr. Teresa Boyd, assistant deputy undersecretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration told lawmakers at a congressional hearing in mid-February, according to the Military Times.

“The aging of the veteran population has been more rapid and represents a greater proportion of the VA patient population than in other healthcare systems.”

Boyd said that the VA must ramp up at-home nursing care services since that’s become the preferred option for most veterans.

In addition to at-home primary care, adult day care and telehealth (distance healthcare services that rely upon the internet, video conferencing and other digital technologies) are also being expanded. As lower-cost options compared to institutional skilled nursing, this is a welcome development for taxpayers and the VA.

In 2017 the VA launched the Choose Home Initiative with the goal of expanding in-home care options. Five VA medical centers are currently piloting related programs and the VA intends to add more participating centers over time.

Lawmakers contend that such efforts are critical not only to meet present needs but also as a foundation for providing care to a future wave of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans entering middle age around 2035.