published Friday, March 9th, 2012

Nursing home backers seek answers to Veterans Administration funding priority list

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Advocates for a regional veterans' nursing home want to know why projects in Bradley and Montgomery counties lost ground last month on the Veterans Administration funding priority list.

Representatives for U.S. Reps. Chuck Fleischman and Scott Dejarles and U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander attended the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Nursing Home Council on Thursday.

"We are still very much in the running, but we are waiting for an official explanation," said Larry McDaris, Bradley County veterans services director.

Since the new list was published in February, supporters have learned of another priority previously unknown: the VA can rank according to need as well as local funding support. Bradley and Montgomery counties were ranked as "limited need" previously, the same as the Virginia projects that jumped ahead this year.

But now the three Virginia projects are ranked as "significant need," the highest level.

"The question is why they weren't moved ahead of us last year," said Cid Heidel, council co-chairman along with County Commissioner Mark Hall.

"Please let us know what happened," Heidel told the federal staff representatives. "We can accept reality."

There is no official explanation yet, said Ed Harries, executive director of the Tennessee Veterans Home Board. It could be that a new veterans census shows more need in Virginia than previously, he said. Maybe the list was re-evaluated after the VA office dealing with nursing homes has completely changed, Harries said.

And maybe, he said, some of the projects now ahead of Tennessee will drop off for some reason, he said, putting the Tennessee projects higher again.

"As we have seen," Harries said, "anything can happen."

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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