The Swarm

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January 27, 2012
Herger, state VA chief weigh in on veterans home delay
Congressman Wally Herger wants to make a federal case of the delay in opening the new veterans home in Redding.

State Veterans Affairs Secretary Peter Gravett wants vets to be patient and understanding.

Leading up to today's town hall in Redding, there are two intriguing letters on the issue/fact that because of the state budget crunch, the 150-bed, $88 million veterans home in Redding, and a 300-bed, $159 million home nearing completion in Fresno, are scheduled to sit empty for nearly two years.

The federal government put in about two-thirds of the construction financing -- about $142 million -- for the two homes. The state funded the rest, and it's up to the state to hire staff and run them. So far, the state says it doesn't have the money.

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget includes $280,000 a month in 2012-13 to keep the homes maintained, but they wouldn't open to veterans until January 2014. The administration says it's one of the tough choices that have to be made when the state faces perpetual deficits.

"One thing veterans should understand better than anyone else is the fact that sometimes you have to make difficult choices. Gov. Jerry Brown's budget is a clear example of that principle," Gravett wrote in a letter published Thursday in the Record Searchlight, Redding's local newspaper.

"This administration is receptive to ideas for opening the Fresno and Redding veterans homes, but not at the expense of services and treatment for those veterans already living in the six other state veterans homes or at the continued expense of public safety programs that protect our communities, other social services that help the elderly, women and children, or our educational system," added Gravett, who will be at the town hall, 1-4 p.m. at Redding City Hall.

"Sometimes life isn't fair, but as veterans we should understand that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the greater good. We will be opening the Redding and Fresno homes, but not until we can afford it."

But Herger, a Republican who represents the Redding area, sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki asking whether he can put any pressure on the state to open the Redding home sooner.

"I have received many phone calls from constituents whose plan to place loved ones in that facility will now be delayed, and they are concerned that the state of California's decision will become an open-ended postponement," Herger wrote, adding, "Are there any binding obligations whatsoever on the state of California to open the Redding home by a certain time, or is it completely free to indefinitely delay the staffing and operation of this important facility?"

Good question.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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