Some military veterans are being forced to leave their nursing home. It’s an unintended consequence of President Obama’s executive order in February to raise the minimum wage for new federal contract workers from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
Sandy Franks, public affairs officer at Shreveport’s Overton Brooks V. A. Medical Center, explains that nursing homes that have contracts for subsidized care from the Veterans Administration become federal contractors. If they refuse to raise their wages, their contracts will not be renewed.
Former Marine A.J. Crain just wheeled himself into his new room at Shreveport Manor on Mansfield Road when he got the news that the home’s contract will end this month.
“We fought all your wars, and now we’re broke. Where do we go from here?” Crain asks.
“We gotta go. Simple as that. We gotta go,” says Vietnam War Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient John Washington.
“I think it’s very wrong. I think it’s very distasteful,” Washington goes on to say about Shreveport Manor’s decision. “I mean some of these people here work their backsides off to keep this place going,” he said, pointing to a woman changing his bed.
Shreveport Manor is owned by Gamble Guest Care. Their Chief Operating Officer says if they raise wages for workers there, they have to do that at all eight of their facilities.
In a statement, Gamble COO Matt Machen said, in part, “The additional labor expenses are simply unaffordable. As such, many long term care providers have indicated that they will no longer seek or renew V.A. contracts.”
Franks at the V.A. agrees that this has the potential to be a national problem as more V.A. contracts with nursing homes expire.
“We will deal with it on a case by case basis,” Franks says. “We will work the families and try to provide the most convenient, and the nursing homes that are up to our standards to take care of our veterans.”
“I’m not too happy over the situation,” grumbles former Navy sailor Charles Shufflin at Shreveport Manor.
Shufflin hasn’t even bothered unpacking his boxes of belongings since he has a place to go. His daughter Vickie Carrington is making room at her house.
“For my dad, I love him,” she says, kissing him on the forehead.
“I’m not so worried about myself,” Shufflin says, “but the veterans that have no place to live.”
“There’s a lot of people out there that have fought for our country,” Carrington adds, choking back tears. “And the ones that don’t have family members to take them in to take care of them, where are they going to go?”
The V.A. says they’ll look for space at other V. A. nursing homes, war veterans homes, or veteran community living centers.
Gamble’s Machen says the company will try to keep its veterans in place by looking for other forms of reimbursement, such as Medicare and Medicaid. He says only about one percent of their residents are affected.
Shufflin and Crain had just moved into Shreveport Manor from Rose View Nursing Center across the street, after the V.A. recently deemed Rose View had fallen below V. A. standards. So those vets would be moving for the second time in as many months.