CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia needs another nursing home for veterans but faces trouble paying off the construction bonds for the one it already has, state Veterans Assistance Secretary Keith Gwinn told lawmakers Monday.
Veterans are now waiting more than a year for a bed at the Clarksburg nursing home, which opened in 2008 and is already full, with 114 patients, Gwinn told a House-Senate committee assigned to oversee veterans issues. About 100 veterans are on the waiting list, including 30 for the Clarksburg facility's unit for those with Alzheimer's disease, Gwinn said.
"Do we need one? Yes, absolutely," Gwinn told the lawmakers.
Close to 170,000 West Virginians are veterans, more than 1 in 10 adults, according to the latest estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau. Just 11 states have a larger segment of veterans among their residents. More than two-thirds of West Virginia's veterans are 55 or older.
The Clarksburg home now costs $12 million annually in salaries and expenses, and patients' fees cover only about $5.6 million of that, Gwinn said. General tax revenues are providing the home with $6.8 million during the ongoing budget year.
Gwinn said his department envisions another 120-bed home toward the opposite end of the state, in Beckley. Like the Clarksburg facility, that one would be built alongside a U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Gwinn said. He estimated the project's entire price tag between $40 million and $44 million.
Aided by a federal grant, West Virginia built the Clarksburg home with proceeds from 30-year bonds backed by lottery scratch-off tickets with proceeds dedicated to veterans' needs. Scratch-off ticket monies began paying off the bonds in 2004, but revenues have since begun to falter, Gwinn said.