Plans for Walla Walla veterans home plan moving forward

BY THE TRI-CITY HERALDFebruary 13, 2013 

OLYMPIA -- Plans for a new 80-bed veterans home in Walla Walla are moving along in Olympia.

Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, have introduced legislation that would authorize the state to add the new facility to a list of similar homes operated in the state.

Hewitt told the Herald that Senate Bill 5691 and House Bill 1782 are more or less formalities, since the state's share of the $36 million project was included in the capital budget in 2012.

"The money is already secured. It will be built regardless," Hewitt said. "We've just got to get Walla Walla inserted into the language."

Heidi Audette, spokeswoman for the state Department of Veterans Affairs, said the Legislature has to grant specific authority to the department to operate the home, as it did with existing homes in Orting, Spokane and Port Orchard.

The Walla Walla facility will be a skilled nursing home providing long-term care for honorably discharged veterans and the surviving spouses of veterans who have died.

Rather than a single building, the facility will be made up of a complex of small houses on the campus of the Jonathan M. Wainright Memorial VA Medical Center, Audette said.

One use for the home might be to provide care to a wounded veteran who needs rehabilitation after a hospital stay, or for someone who has a medical condition and needs long-term care, she said.

The state is providing $14.4 million toward the project. The federal government is expected to match with $21.8 million, a news release said.

The federal money would come from a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The state has applied for the grant and expects to hear soon, Audette said.

The home would serve 10 counties with a population of nearly 53,000 veterans.

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