Almost all Arkansans and Phillips Countians recognize that America's soldiers swore to defend our rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” at all costs, including their own lives.
Representative John C. Edwards of Little Rock believes strongly that it is our nation's responsibility to ensure the safety and well being of the men and women who fought for our freedom by providing them a veterans' home. Edwards, a retired Army colonel and veteran of the Iraqi War, is sponsoring legislation concerning such a facility for our veterans.
House Bill 1013 is an act to authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish and maintain such a home.
“Veterans have a special place in our nation's heart and I do think we owe our duty to our veterans to provide the best care we have for them,” said Edwards. “The states surrounding Arkansas have done quite well by utilizing the partnerships between their state and federal resources to give veterans a quality nursing home facility.”
Arkansas ranks 29th in the country with a veteran population of 255,000, or roughly about 8 percent of the total population. Currently, Arkansas has one such facility to care for its rapidly aging veterans population. The existing facility in Fayetteville, completed in 2006 has 105 beds to support 249,000 vets – 66,000 of those vets live in central Arkansas
Here is how Arkansas compares with its neighbors:
• Texas has a population of 6 percent veterans with eight homes
• Mississippi has six veterans home for a veterans' population of 7.1 percent
• Oklahoma has seven homes for a veterans' population of 8.5 percent
• Missouri has seven homes with a state veterans population of 8.5 percent
• Louisiana has five homes supporting a veteran population of 6.9 percent
• Tennessee has four homes for veterans.
According to State Representative Chris Richey, HB 1013 simply authorizes the establishment of such a nursing home facility and does not provide any financing. Edwards plans to apply for federal matching funds – probably 65 percent – to help pay for the new center.
No site has been determined but the facility will probably be established in Little Rock.
“I don't think there will be any problem with this bill passing,” said Richey. “It is a starting point but only provides authorization to pursue the project. Funding might be a completely different matter.”
Richey praised Edwards' efforts on behalf of veterans.
“He's getting things done for our veterans,” he said.
“I believe that we can support one good quality nursing home facility for our veterans,” said Edwards.