SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) A nursing home for military veterans could be built in eastern South Dakota under a partnership that would shift construction costs to the federal government and a private company that would later run the home.
A bill approved by the Legislature and awaiting the governor’s signature sets out the framework for building the 50-bed nursing home.
The only care facility for military veterans and their spouses is in the southwest corner of the state at Hot Springs, where the Veterans Home has 52 nursing beds and 100 assisted living beds.
“That makes it difficult for those in eastern South Dakota to have their long-term care needs met due to the distance and separation from family and friends,” said Deb Bowman, secretary of the Department of Social Services.
Gov. Mike Rounds is expected to sign the bill. It was introduced in the Legislature on behalf of his administration and final approval was March 9.
Legislative approval was needed because of a state moratorium passed in 1988 on new construction of nursing home beds. It was meant to encourage people to choose less-expensive alternatives and discourage providers from building sometimes unneeded facilities.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would pay 65 percent of the construction costs of a second veterans home. A private company that would run the home would contribute the remainder.
There’s no estimate yet of construction costs, said Bowman.
She said costs to the state initially and long term likely would be minimal, but there would be one state employee to act as an ombudsman for the veterans.
The legislation sets a June 30, 2013, deadline for construction to begin.
“A nursing home facility located anywhere in the eastern half of South Dakota that will serve our military veterans, our heroes and their spouses is something we believe is long overdue,” Warren Aas said in legislative testimony on behalf of the South Dakota American Legion.
The Dakota Territorial Legislature in 1889 established the Dakota Soldiers’ Home, known now as the Veterans Home in Hot Springs. The first building constructed is still in use for administration and recreation.
“They do a great job, but that facility is really kind of hanging on down there. It’s taking a lot of money each year to keep it going,” said Maj. Gen. Steven Doohen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
State Rep. Charles Turbiville, R-Deadwood, said there will be a need for veterans’ services as long as the United States is the “police force of the world.”
“The number that have served and will continue to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan and other hot spots across the world is increasing, and we need to have an adequate facility for these veterans when they return so they can be next to family and friends,” he said.