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Residents of veterans home denied free VA care

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – The chairman of the governing board of the North Dakota Veterans' Home at Lisbon says the residents of the home can no longer receive no-cost routine doctor appointments and prescriptions from the Fargo Veterans Administration Medical Center.

Brad Maasjo of Fargo says the VA's rationale is that state veterans homes receive a federal per-diem payment -- and that the cost of the care at the VA Medical Center is included in those payments. Maasjo told a Senate Budget Committee field hearing in Bismarck that the policy fails the common sense test.

"If an eligible veteran were living across the street from our state home, in his or her own apartment, they would receive primary care appointments and prescription medications from the VA," Maasjo said. "If that same veteran were occupying a bed in the VA's own hospital in Fargo, they would receive primary care and prescriptions from the VA."

The administrator of the Fargo VA Facility -- Doug Kenyon -- says the policy is that it is a contract between the federal government and the state, and it is a shared cost.

"The VA headquarters will pay a percentage, and the state will as well," said Kenyon. "So it really falls into contract law. Maybe before we were being generous and sort of turning a blind eye. Budgets being what they are, we no longer can."

Senator Kent Conrad -- who chaired the hearing -- says this seems to be a wrong interpretation of an administrative rule. And he says he'll look into it further.