CalVet Secretary Dr. Vito Imbasciani spoke to veteran stakeholder representatives via teleconference today to provide an overview of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s budget proposal for 2018-19, which was released this morning. The proposed budget contains several significant allocations that would benefit veterans.
Dr. Imbasciani’s remarks are below.
“Let me begin by saying that the budget Governor Brown proposed this morning reaffirms his ongoing commitment to California’s veteran community. The welfare of our veterans and their families continues to be a priority for the Governor as he enters this final year of his administration.
His support for CalVet’s initiatives remains strong, and we are therefore able to continue, evolve, and innovate the programs and services we offer to California’s diverse veteran population.
The number of veterans in California is decreasing, reflecting a nationwide shift. It’s now at 1.7 million. However, the level of service veterans need is increasing. Our largest contingent of veterans – those who served during the Vietnam War – are aging and beginning to need greater medical care, while our younger veterans returning from the wars in the Middle East are facing greater medical, mental health and other challenges as they adjust to civilian life.
The budget the Governor proposed today includes several commitments to support, expand or realign CalVet’s programs to meet the changing needs of our veterans. One key element of my vision is the evolution of the veterans homes.
As you may know some of the buildings at Yountville date back to the 1930’s. In particular, the current dual-occupancy rooms in the independent living quarters is not ideal. Although dual-occupancy meets the basic standard, that is not satisfactory. We simply owe our veterans better; and, to that end, the Governor’s budget provides for single-occupancy for independent living domiciliary rooms going forward.
This course of action aligns with a reduced demand for independent living space across the entire system. At the same time, we recognize that the need to provide more skilled nursing care for aging and disabled veterans continues to be high.
While we added almost a thousand new beds in our veterans home system over the past decade by opening five new veterans homes across the state, the skilled nursing facility at the Yountville Veterans Home campus is one of our largest, but the buildings there are old and require substantial maintenance and repair. It does not provide the quality of life our veterans deserve.
I am very pleased to announce that Governor Brown has provided $15.7 million for preliminary planning to construct a new, state-of-the-art skilled nursing facility on the Yountville campus. This is consistent with the needs identified in our existing master plan for the Yountville campus.
It is another keystone of my vision for CalVet that we reach under-served veterans. To that end, this budget addresses the fact that, for a variety of reasons, former service members make up a significant portion of the population in our state prison system. Regardless of why they are incarcerated, veterans and their families are still entitled to the benefits they earned. We also owe them our assistance in reintegrating successfully once they have served their time.
CalVet has long provided outreach and information to incarcerated veterans within our resources; however, the Governor’s budget funds a more fully developed effort. We will be able to provide trained veteran service representatives at California State Prisons to assist incarcerated veterans in applying for any federal or other veterans’ benefits for which they or their families may be eligible.
There are a number of other allocations in the budget that support our work on behalf of veterans, including money to improve Rector Reservoir on our Yountville Campus, positions to meet our increasing information technology and security needs, and funding for expansion planning at the California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery.
What we are seeing as a theme in all of the issues addressed in this budget, both veteran-specific and the budget as a whole, is the importance of making thoughtful improvements to our services in a strategic way that is sustainable in good times and bad. Overall, the Governor has provided a total budget of $467,755,000 for CalVet… a $6 million increase over the previous budget. I believe CalVet is very well positioned to move forward through 2018 and 2019 to continue effectively ensuring that California veterans and their families receive the full measure of support they have earned.”
The full summary of the Governor’s budget proposal can be found at www.ebudget.ca.gov. In summary, the budget changes for CalVet are:
- A reduction of $732,000 General Fund and 2.5 positions beginning in Budget Year 2018-19 to convert rooms in the domiciliary level of care at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville from dual-occupancy to single-occupancy, thereby increasing quality of life for its residents. This will be accomplished by suspending admissions to maintain a domiciliary census of 522, a reduction of 115 budgeted beds.
- $232,000 General Fund and 2 positions in 2018-19, increasing to $343,000 General Fund annually thereafter, to satisfy the requirements of Chapter 509, Statutes of 2017 (AB 1365). AB 1365 requires an annual report be submitted to the Legislature and posted on CalVet’s website that includes the veterans homes’ budget, revenue, cost of care, and deferred maintenance costs. In addition, CalVet is required to review, within a specified timeframe, the use restrictions imposed by federal law on the veterans homes.
- $15,722,000 General Fund for the preliminary plans phase for a new Skilled Nursing Facility at the Veterans Home of California, Yountville. The new approximately 280,000-square-foot facility will house 240 skilled nursing beds and will be constructed on 11 acres adjacent to the existing Holderman Hospital on the Yountville campus. Total project costs are estimated to be $317,131,000 ($15,722,000 for preliminary plans, $12, 984,000 for working drawings, and $288,425,000 for construction).
- $1,574,000 General Fund and 5 positions in Budget Year 2018-19 and $596,000 General Fund and 5 positions annually thereafter to make improvements needed to bring the operation of Rector Dam and Reservoir, located near the Veterans Home of California-Yountville, into compliance with California Fish and Game Code and United States Code of Federal Regulations.
- $571,000 California Central Coast State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Ord Operations Fund to complete the working drawings for the California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, City of Seaside project. In 2017-18, $1,500,000 General Fund was appropriated for the state’s share of the project ($1,212,000 for preliminary plans, $50,000 for working drawings, and $238,000 for construction). This request represents the remaining balance of the state’s share of the costs for working drawings. The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs Cemetery Grant Service Program will fund 100 percent of allowable construction costs.
- $1,235,000 ($1,090,000 General Fund and $145,000 Farm and Home Building Fund of 1943) and 9 positions in 2018-19 and $1,185,000 ($1,045,000 General Fund and $140,000 Farm and Home Building Fund of 1943) and 9 positions annually thereafter to provide support for CalVet’s information security, applications, websites, databases, and information technology projects and procurements.
- $907,000 ($39,000 one-time) General Fund and 7 positions in 2018-19 and ongoing to fulfill the requirements of Chapter 599, Statutes of 2017 (SB 776), which was approved by the Governor on Oct. 8, 2017. SB 776 requires CalVet to provide one employee for every five state prisons, who is trained and accredited by CalVet, to assist incarcerated veterans in applying for and receiving any federal or other veterans’ benefits for which they or their families may be eligible. CalVet also requests a position upgrade of a Staff Services Manager II to a Staff Services Manager III in the Oakland District Office.
- $1,621,000 ($4,930,000 General Fund and -$3,309,000 Farm & Home Building Fund of 1943) ongoing to correctly align funding associated with General Fund sourced programs and to adjust rental payments to the Farm and Home Loan Program to the standard DGS price book rate for rental space occupied by other CalVet programs. This action will reduce Farm and Home administrative costs and effectively make those funds available for loans to veterans.