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VA Secretary Offers Beds To Nursing Home Patients Affected By Irma

Pat Tillman Scholars paint the garden gazebo at the Haley's Cover Community Living Center.
Bobbie O'Brien
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The tragic deaths of eight nursing home residents after Irma knocked out their air conditioning has prompted the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs to offer up available beds at federal VA Community Living Centers.

The VA Community Living Centers, used to be called nursing homes, but now offer a home atmosphere that allows pets and lets residents decorate their rooms. The community centers are located next to VA Medical Centers in Florida and across the country.

Dr. David Shulkin, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said that part of the VA’s mission is to support emergency management and public health, which allows them to open up to non-veterans impacted by Hurricane Irma.

The  offer does not impact Florida's six veterans' homes operated by the state which are 99 percent full and have no available beds.

In a news release, Shulkin said he was working with Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to help the affected nursing home residents.

"All Americans are pulling together to help one another, and we must make a special effort for those most vulnerable to the conditions brought on by the storm,” Shulkin said.

But Shulkin emphasized that veterans remain their primary mission and the circumstances will not change that.

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Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.