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White House Meeting Clears Way For Two Florida VA Nursing Homes

President Trump after signing the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act, April 19, 2017. From right to left: Florida VA Ex. Dir. Glenn Sutphin, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Chairman U.S. House VA Committee Phil Roe, VA Secretary David Shulkin.
U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

It was approved almost three years ago, and finally, construction could begin soon on a 120-bed VA nursing home in St. Lucie County. 

Commissioners will get an update on the Ardie R. Copas State Veterans Nursing Home in Port St. Lucie  on Tuesday from Glenn Sutphin, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA).

Plans for the nursing home were delayed because of a federal design change. When Florida first planned the Port St. Lucie home, it did so using conventional architectural designs.

But the federal VA – which provides 65 percent of the construction costs – wanted a newer concept called community living centers. That design costs more and serves eight fewer veterans. Redrawing the plans delayed the project.

Then Gov. Rick Scott and Stuphin, met with President Donald Trump and the new VA Secretary David Shulkin on April 19, 2017.

“Eight days later after the White House meeting, the VA released a statement saying that governors of the states could now use state designs in construction of the homes while qualifying for the same level of federal grant funding,” said Steven Murray, FDVA communications director.

Removing Red Tape at State-owned Veteran Nursing Homes

Effective today, VA is amending guidelines to allow state-owned Veteran nursing homes to follow state guidelines in the construction design of their facilities - removing red tape, while increasing access to services for Veterans. 

Up to now, to qualify for federal grant funding for Veteran nursing homes in their state, Governors and state officials have had to follow federal construction design guidelines.  With today’s announcement by the Secretary, that is no longer the case, and Governors are freed up to follow their own state guidelines in the construction design of these facilities while still qualifying for the same level of federal grant funding as before.

In announcing the move, Secretary Shulkin noted that State design guidelines already are sufficient to the task of providing safe conditions for our Veterans and the Department recognizes the need to move quickly to reduce unnecessary barriers to providing much needed services to our Veterans. VA News Release April 27, 2017.

That means the Port St. Lucie nursing home can proceed using its original design for 120 beds.

Murray said the state design also will save money and allow the state to move forward on renovating another veterans nursing home in the Lake Baldwin area of Orlando.

There’s no timeline yet for when construction will start because the state still needs to get approvals. Sutphin will provide the latest details to commissioners during their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

Copyright 2017 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

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.