Minimum Wage Hike Could Force Oklahoma Veterans Out Of Nursing Homes

Tuesday, December 16th 2014, 11:02 pm
By: News On 6

Veterans could be forced to leave nursing homes due to President Obama's minimum wage increase for federal contractors.

Some nursing homes say they can't pay $10.10 an hour, and that means veterans will have to move.

A News On 6 viewer told us the Veterans Administration is going to stop paying for her dad's care at his nursing home. Her dad is 84 and a Korean War veteran.

His nursing home does not pay everyone new required minimum wage, so it will likely lose its contract with the VA.

Last February, Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10.

Nursing homes that contract with the VA must meet that minimum wage standard or likely lose a contract with the VA.

American Legion Oklahoma Commander Tim Smith's father-in-law is a veteran in a nursing home at risk of losing VA funding for his care.

"Our government is failing our veterans," Smith said. “He's been there seven or eight years, so at that late age, late 80s, moving him somewhere else would be crisis mode."

A spokesperson for the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee said, "We're currently negotiating contracts with several nursing homes...One hurdle is the federal minimum wage increase."

Most nursing homes pay healthcare workers more than $10.10 an hour, but might have to raise wages for housekeeping and other employees to meet the new minimum wage.

American Legion Service Officer John Cloud said he's taken at least twenty calls from frustrated families of veterans.

"They're crying. The families are saying, 'What do we do?' Mostly, you know, 'We were under contract here and now we're going to have to move to somewhere else that might not take a contract," said Cloud.

Grace Living Center in Muskogee currently contracts with the VA.

A spokesperson said:

“We are proud of the care we provide to these veterans and welcome the opportunity to continue to do so. Although we are aware of the communications received by our residents or their families, we have not been formally notified by the Veteran's Administration and we are actively pursuing avenues which will allow us to continue to provide care for these residents. We also will work with these families to help determine if there is other funding available for their care should the Veteran's Administration decide to end its contract with us.”

Cloud said, "Here in Tulsa, we got a big volume of veterans, and so there's only so many slots, and so, what do they do?"

The new minimum wage goes into effect January 1st.

If a contract has to be cancelled, or cannot be renewed, the VA said it will request an extension to continue a veteran's care for 90 days.

Other placement options for veterans forced to move out include the VA Medical Center, Claremore Veterans Center, Talihina Veterans Center or a caregiver at home.