HARTFORD, CT — Veterans Service Organizations from around the state gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday to continue their effort to restore $2 million to the Levitow Healthcare Center at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Veterans’ Home at Rocky Hill.
The two-year budget adopted last October anticipated the state would modify the licensing requirements for the Levitow Healthcare Center portion of the state-run facility and save $2 million.
When the plan was scrapped it was discovered that the licensing change would actually jeopardize millions of dollars in federal reimbursements, and the plan was canceled.
“In the original plan, there was never supposed to be an actual cut to the budget. The cost savings couldn’t be realized, but now they want the DVA to find it in their budget anyway? The budget is cut to the bone as it is. If this keeps up, the DVA will cease to exist,” Bob Priest, state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said.
The loss of $2 million would come on top of the 35 percent in budget cuts they’ve experienced over the last decade.
“When we took an oath to serve our country to protect the flag, the constitution, and the people of America we never stopped once we got out,” Ed DeGumbia, state commander of the American Legion, said.
The more than 100 patients and about 30 residents at the state veterans home and hospital “are not as fortunate as the rest of us,” DeGumbia said.
DeGumbia said they have been reassured that the money would be restored.
“It’s infuriating that the state is planning cuts that could put World War Two, Korean War, and Vietnam veterans on the street,” DeGumbia said. “We owe these folks such an incredible debt, and it makes me sick that this is how we are honoring their service. And what kind of message does it send to the men and women coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan? Who would want to come home to Connecticut knowing that we could just turn our backs on them?”
Steve Kennedy, Connecticut Team Leader for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said they were concerned they would have to lose some wings of the hospital without the restoration of the funding.
Both the legislature’s Democratic and Republican spending proposals restored the funding, which will likely become part of the budget debate. However, the two sides have yet to get together to start negotiating the budget with 13 to 14 days left in the legislative session. The length of the legislative session may depend on how many weekend days lawmakers are willing to work before the May 9 adjournment.
Dan Thurston, chairman of the Connecticut Military and Veterans Coalition, said Rocky Hill is a state asset.
“It is unique and it has been around much more than a century and it is something that brings great value,” Thurston said.
While there is stand alone legislation, the funding issue will likely be part of the budget decisions between legislative leaders, which could begin as early as today.