Friday, December 18, 2009

'It's a rotten deal': Rent at veterans home to go up by as much as 37 percent

'It's a rotten deal': Rent at veterans home to go up by as much as 37 percent

DOVER - Gary Forst moved into the Veterans Home at Union Grove about four years ago. Soon after, Harold Yonker moved in too.

The two men, veterans of different wars, have been friends ever since they moved into Gates Hall, one of the assisted living facilities on the Union Grove campus.

It won't be long before Yonker, 87, moves out. At least he hopes to. That's been his plan ever since he and his fellow residents learned in November that the Department of Veterans Affairs will increase their rent by as much as 37 percent.

The rate hike takes effect Jan. 1. That's when the daily rate of $83 jumps to a little more than $114 per day, at least for Yonker. That's an increase of nearly $930 each month. The rates vary for different residents, depending on the level of care they need. Many say they can't afford the increases.

"I really figured when I moved here this would be it, I would be here the rest of my life, but they are pricing me right out of here," said Yonker, a World War II veteran. "The staff bends over backwards. I've never had a nicer bunch of people. I'm not unhappy here. It's strictly a monetary thing."

Yonker said his monthly rent of roughly $2,500 will jump to nearly $3,500. It's more than he can afford, which is why he plans to move.

Forst, 66, has no choice. He has been nearly confined to a wheelchair since he broke a hip. The Vietnam veteran needs the kind of assistance that prevents him from living independently. So the veterans' home is an ideal place to live.

Residents and their families are concerned about the hike in rates and they're disappointed by what they say is the lack of explanation as to why the increases are so steep. There have been increases annually, but not this large, they said.

"It's a rotten deal. I'm partially disabled. I can't move out of this place, no way in hell, and I sure as hell can't afford to live here. It's just unbelievable," Forst said. "I'm sure that there are veterans in the state Legislature and the VA. How can these veterans treat fellow veterans this way?"

Both Forst and Yonker have been happy with their experiences at the veterans home. They're concerned about decisions being made at the state level.

Officials say the increases are needed to meet the costs for caring for residents at the veterans' home. A spokeswoman for the department could not provide specifics, and Commandant Randy Nitschke could not be reached for comment.

Union Grove is one of two homes run by the state's Department of Veterans Affairs. There are no planned rate increases at the Veterans Home at King. The Veterans Affairs Board has been discussing the rate increases since they were first notified in November 2008. Residents weren't notified until a year later.

Richard Bayer, Racine County's Veterans Services Officer, has responded to a handful of calls from indignant veterans ever since the rent increases were announced. They're upset about the increase. They think it's outrageous, Bayer said.

"‘Who can I talk to who can do something about this?' That is the universal question," Bayer said.

There is little he can do. So he has been telling veterans who have called to contact their state legislators.

"Whoever holds the purse strings for the Department of Veterans Affairs is ultimately the Legislature. It's their constituents who are calling me," Bayer said. "It kind of puts me in the position ... the only way I can advocate for the veteran is to send them to the legislators."

Kathy Lehsten was surprised when her father, Ray Lafferty, called about a month ago saying he had to move out of the veterans home. He's happy there. He's been happy ever since he moved to the home four years ago.

Lehsten and her father agreed that it was a good place to move. Lafferty had lived at much more expensive facility in Greendale, where his daughter lives. Lehsten thought the veterans home was going to be more affordable and she and her father have made accommodations for past rent increases. The most recent increase is too much, she said, and it comes without any explanation from officials as to why it is needed.

"The whole fact that they are even doing this to the veterans is appalling. This is about the most disrespectful thing I've heard of being done," Lehsten said. "These people fought for our freedom and they're treating them like this."


How much money do the state legislators think veterans have to pay veterans home's fee's, even the federal governments veterans homes take the veterans social sceurity checks and gives the veterans back 150.00 a month for personal needs, there is no set dollar amount, it's based on their income. I myself would never consider moving into one of these facilities based on my income I refuse to pay the governemtn 4500 or 5000 a month in fees to live in a small one room and a bath, I will stay in my home and find someone that needs a place to live on SS or a veterans pension and in exchange for their driving and grocery shopping if it comes to that point, I like my house, hopefully I will be accompanied by my wife until I pass, but just in case I refuse to be financially raped by a state nusring home.

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