State Senate approves bill for veterans facility in Walla Walla

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldMarch 12, 2013 

OLYMPIA -- The state Senate unanimously approved a bill introduced by Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, authorizing the state to add a new veterans nursing home in Walla Walla to a list of similar homes operated in the state.

"I'm a firm believer that helping to improve the lives of those who served our country in the armed forces should be one of the state Legislature's top priorities," Hewitt said in a statement. "Finalizing this facility in Walla Walla will be a positive step we can take to fill a tremendous need to serve veterans and their families in our area."

Hewitt told the Herald when Senate Bill 5691 was introduced that it's more or less a formality, since the state's share of the $36 million project was included in the capital budget in 2012.

One step in the process toward opening the home is for the Legislature to grant specific authority to the department to operate the facility, 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.

The state is providing $14.4 million toward the project. The federal government is matching with $21.8 million.

The home would serve 10 counties -- including Benton and Franklin -- with a population of almost 53,000 veterans.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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