Veterans Homes Still Not Self-Sufficient

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi's four veterans homes still rely on state money to operate a year after being criticized for failing to tap into other available funds, according to a legislative watchdog panel.

The Legislature's Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee on Wednesday, in a follow-up to a report issued last year, said the Veterans Affairs Board has not acted to make the homes in Jackson, Oxford, Kosciusko and Collins self-supporting.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2001, PEER said the Legislature appropriated $2.8 million to operate the homes. Funding was reduced this fiscal year to $2.3 million amid spending cuts throughout state government. PEER said the Veterans Home Board is asking for $4.9 million for next fiscal year to operate the four homes.

The 2000 Legislature agreed that the board would take over operations of the Collins home from a private company to test whether money could be saved. The management company, Diversified Health Services, still manages the homes in Jackson, Oxford and Kosciusko.

Each home has 150 beds. On June 30, PEER said 588 residents lived at the homes.

The state provided about $11 million in funding for building construction and start-up costs, PEER said. Initially, the federal government and residents split the costs. From 1990 to 1994, the state didn't appropriate any money from the general fund. By 1999, however, the state was spending several million dollars as its share of operating costs.

In its report Wednesday, PEER recommended the Veterans Home Board get started on a cost analysis of the Collins operation. PEER said that analysis would go a long way in determining if the state or a private company was better suited to run the homes.

Veterans Home Board chairman Jo Leslie of Brandon, in response to the PEER report, said the board would have the financial data on the Collins home to lawmakers on time in January. Leslie said the board also is working to find other sources of operating money for the homes, not limited to Medicare.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)