ST. PAUL – Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) Commissioner Larry Shellito and Minnesota Department of Administration (Admin) Commissioner Matt Massman visited the Minnesota State Veterans Home in Hastings April 27 to highlight urgently needed repairs and maintenance in the facilities that serve nearly 800 Minnesota veterans and spouses.
Governor Mark Dayton has included $13.1 million in his public works proposal to cover the highest priority repairs for veterans’ facilities across the state. In addition to the Hastings Veterans Home, which provides domiciliary care to approximately 140 Minnesota veterans, MDVA operates 24/7 skilled nursing facilities in Minneapolis, Fergus Falls, Luverne and Silver Bay. In all, MDVA is responsible for 68 buildings around the state, spanning more than a million square feet.
Major repairs and upgrades of facilities and operating systems, such as heating and cooling systems, are essential to caring for veterans. On the Hastings campus critical needs include replacement of interior and exterior doors, roofing and water lines, along with HVAC controls and repair of crumbling walls in the tunnel system. In another example, Minnesota’s northernmost veterans home, located in Silver Bay, needs a new heating and cooling system and does not have a reliable back up. A heating system failure during the extreme winter months could have a devastating effect on veterans and spouses who live at the home.
“These repairs are critical to our mission of caring for Minnesota veterans and their families,” said Commissioner Larry Shellito. “This proposal will allow us to continue honoring our veterans in a manner which they so richly deserve.”
The Minnesota State Veterans Homes must meet the most stringent life safety standards for care facilities. Meeting those standards is increasingly more difficult in older facilities, and maintenance has been deferred due to inadequate funding. Maintenance issues get worse and more expensive the longer they are deferred. Additionally, the state’s four skilled care facilities have or are undertaking federal certification, which means higher standards. Existing budgets cannot meet these ever rising costs.
The veterans homes are only part of a growing list of required maintenance. Included in the request is funding to provide maintenance and updates at the State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls.
“Burial honors are often the only benefit veterans take advantage of,” said Shellito. “Military burial is a powerful reminder of service and sacrifice. This benefit is as much for the families and loved ones as it is for the veterans who are laid to rest. It is important that the grounds and facilities reflect the great honor bestowed on our heroes.”
More than $500 million of identified repairs are needed just to fix state-owned buildings in the worst condition. Governor Dayton’s $1.5 billion public works proposal includes $542 million to maintain and improve Minnesota’s colleges and universities, and $998 million to repair state buildings and clean water infrastructure, and address affordable housing shortages and other critical infrastructure needs across the state. The Governor’s proposal will reduce the backlog of deferred maintenance before the costs of these urgently needed repairs further escalates.
“The deferred repairs and upgrades at our state’s veterans homes is one more example of inadequate construction appropriations that negatively affects Minnesotans,” said Minnesota
Department of Administration Commissioner Matt Massman. “We need to repair and maintain the places our nation’s heroes call home. And, we need to do the same for hundreds of other state-owned buildings in poor and crisis condition that also serve Minnesotans. If we don’t take action now, the problem just gets worse while the price tag only gets bigger. Governor Dayton’s investment to take care of what we have is the fiscally responsible choice.”
About the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs
The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs is a cabinet level state agency dedicated to serving Minnesota Veterans and their families. In addition to overseeing the five State Veterans Homes, MDVA helps eligible Veterans and families secure state and federal benefits and provides programs and services relating to higher education, benefits, burial, claims, outreach and Veterans employment. Veterans and their families are encouraged to visit www.MinnesotaVeteran.org or call 1-(888)-LinkVet for more information about benefits.