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'State-of-the-art' veterans home to open near Asheville

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6/19/2012 - 'State-of-the-art' veterans home to open near Asheville
by Joel Burgess - Asheville Citizen Times

A state-of-the-art nursing home for elderly and disabled mountain veterans could open in the the next couple of months, officials are now saying.

State Division of Veterans Affairs officials had hoped to open the 100-bed Swannanoa facility by May or earlier but faced a range of minor construction delays and opposition from residents over traffic concerns.

On Monday, Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tim Wipperman said the $20.7 million home, which features "neighborhood"-style quarters and therapy pools with treadmills, could open in as soon as two months.

Wipperman didn't want to put an exact date on the opening because of past delays, but said the facility is important because of North Carolina's large number of elderly World War II and Korean War veterans.

"We have about 77,000 World War II veterans in this state, then you have another 85,000 Korea veterans ... and they are getting to the point where they really need this level of care," he said.

Some of the former service members needing that kind of help live at a shelter for homeless veterans.

The Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry Veterans Restoration Quarters specializes in helping homeless veterans find stability, get medical help and get work, program director Michael Reich said.

But some of the older residents need a different kind of facility, Reich said.

"We have men that come here initially that have some pretty significant health issues that might have contributed to them being homeless.

"Over time, due to their age and how severe their physical illnesses are, we see the point where they need to be in skilled nursing assisted living," he said.

Other skilled nursing facilities for veterans are in Salisbury, Fayetteville and Durham.

Each has from 100-120 beds.

The home will be less expensive than private care homes and will take veterans with private insurance or government-subsidized care, such as Medicaid.

The facility could also serve younger veterans who were disabled during their service. To be eligible, residents must have been on active duty and been honorably discharged.

The home could also take up to 25 percent nonveterans who are widows or other relatives.

The state received $13.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to cover 65 percent of the total cost of $20.7 million.

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