By Sen. Mike Parson
I strongly believe we must ensure those who have given so much to our nation by serving in the Armed Forces should receive the best healthcare possible. Unfortunately, our state has not always accomplished this goal.
In recent years, it has become clear that Missouri is in need of additional nursing and assisted living options for veterans. There are an estimated 2,000 veterans on the waiting list. We can no longer continue to make these heroes wait for the care they need. It’s time for the state and federal governments to cut through the red tape and do what’s right for veterans.
Some have called for the construction of a new veterans home to supplement the seven currently in place across the state. I believe this will be very important. Many of our veterans are growing older and additional housing capacity must be added quickly, before the waiting list grows even longer.
However, construction of a new veterans home is not enough to meet the needs of elderly veterans. The simple truth is that being housed in a veterans home may not be the best way for some veterans to receive care, as going to one of the existing facilities may require these veterans to move many miles away from their family just to receive the care they need.
Veterans should not be forced to uproot their lives when they find they need to move to an assisted living facility or need nursing care. We owe them more than that.
I believe we can improve access to care and the quality of life for Missouri’s veterans by giving them the flexibility to utilize the services of existing nursing or assisted living facilities in their area if they so choose. This will help to meet the needs of the growing population of veterans, while also ensuring they can remain close to family and friends.
Utilizing existing facilities will also be beneficial to taxpayers, who will save money by avoiding the construction costs associated with building multiple single-purpose facilities. As a member of the Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee, I know that many senior living facilities across the state have unused rooms. This will help put these rooms to productive use.
As a veteran of the Army, serving my fellow veterans has been one of my highest goals during my service in the Missouri General Assembly. During the upcoming months, I plan to work with veterans organizations to draft a proposal that will help provide our veterans with increased access to nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.
I believe, at the very least, veterans should be given the choice to either stay at facilities in their own communities or go to a veterans home, and seeing this proposal implemented will be one of my top priorities during the next year.