OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 6855

AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM REVIEW AND INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE REGARDING RESIDENTIAL SERVICES AT THE VETERANS' HOME.

SUMMARY:

This bill gives the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) Board of Trustees more oversight over the department. It requires (1) the DVA commissioner to give certain information to the board to monitor DVA's performance and (2) the board to review and comment on the DVA budget and major policies relating to the Veterans' Home.

The bill also increases the membership of DVA's Board of Trustees, from 17 to 19 members, by adding two Veterans' Home residents as voting members. It adds certain board appointment and resignation conditions.

It requires: (1) the DVA commissioner to report to the legislature, by January 1, 2016, a plan for, among other things, providing transitional and permanent housing and implementing the Program Review and Investigations (PRI) recommendations and (2) the chief fiscal officer (CFO) to semiannually submit a report to each Veterans' Home resident on how the institutional general welfare fund was used in the previous six months.

The bill requires the DVA commissioner to continue to provide housing to any veteran residing at the Veterans' Home or its health care facility upon the bill's passage.

Under the bill, Veterans' Home residents, their relatives or authorized representatives, or any DVA employee may file a written complaint concerning the home with the DVA Board of Trustees. Where the complainant has given permission, the board must relay such complaints to the DVA commissioner. Upon the board's request the commissioner must provide the board with information on his complaint resolution..

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015, except upon passage for the DVA (1) housing requirement and (2) reporting provisions.

DVA BOARD OF TRUSTEE OVERSIGHT

The bill requires the DVA commissioner to provide the board with information necessary for it to monitor the department's performance. The information must be provided in a timely manner and include:

1. DVA's budget each fiscal year;

2. quarterly reports for the preceding four months (a) on DVA's actual revenue and expenditures; (b) on the staffing levels at the Veterans' Home, including direct care staffing at the health care facilities and case manager to resident ratios; and (c) summarizing incident rates at the health care facility within the Veterans' Home;

3. facilities and fleet management, including current and planned projects;

4. quarterly summaries of applications for admission to, departures from, and occupancy rates at the home for the preceding four months;

5. program performance, including programs for employment assistance and assistance to veteran residents interested in securing housing outside the Veterans' Home;

6. results of annual DVA-conducted resident satisfaction surveys;

7. reports on the number of rules violations against Veterans' Home residents and the penalties issued;

8. performance reports on programs operated by DVA's Office of Advocacy and Assistance and annual customer satisfaction reports from veterans who request assistance from the office;

9. caseload figures for veterans' service officers;

10. any federal and state inspection results;

11. performance evaluations for DVA officers, deputies, and unit heads; and

12. quarterly reports summarizing complaints the DVA commissioner receives and their resolutions.

DVA BOARD OF TRUSTEES

Membership

The bill increases the membership of DVA's Board of Trustees, from 17 to 19 members, by adding two Veterans' Home residents as voting members. One resident must be from the health care facility while the other must be from a different DVA-operated residential housing program. Both members must be elected annually by the residents of their respective programs.

Appointments. Under current law, the board consists of the DVA commissioner and 16 appointed members, with the governor appointing 10 and the six legislative leaders each appointing one. The bill requires four of the governor's appointments to represent four different federally chartered Connecticut veterans' organizations (there are currently eight such organizations). These appointees serve a two- year term and must be from different organizations than those appointed the previous term.

By law, a majority of the board members must be veterans. The bill requires that the board include one or more (1) female veterans and (2) veterans of armed conflicts that occurred within 10 years preceding the appointment.

The bill also specifies that any vacancy on the board is filled by the appointing authority in the same manner as the original appointment, for the unexpired portion of the term.

Under the bill, the governor annually appoints a chairperson for the board, except the DVA commissioner may not serve as chairperson. Current law requires the board to meet at least quarterly or upon the DVA commissioner's call. The bill also allows the chairperson or a majority of the board members to call a meeting.

Resignations. On and after January 1, 2016, any board member, except the DVA commissioner, is deemed to have resigned, effective immediately, from the board, if he or she is absent from (1) three consecutive board meetings or (2) 50% of the meetings in a calendar year.

Board Notices. Under the bill, all board meeting notices, minutes, and reports with a date of January 1, 2012 or later must be posted on DVA's website in a conspicuous location. The board meeting minutes held on or after July 1, 2015 must be posted on DVA's website within seven days after the meeting is held. If applicable, the minutes must contain a statement that such minutes are considered draft minutes until the board approves them.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Board of Trustees

Current law requires the DVA board to annually submit a report to the governor and the Public Safety and Security and Veterans' Affairs committees with its activities and recommendations for improving the delivery of services to veterans and the addition of new programs.

The bill requires the report to (1) be submitted before February 15 each year and (2) include information on the progress in fulfilling DVA's mission based on programmatic outcomes. It also eliminates the requirement that the report be sent to the Public Safety and Security Committee and specifies the activities being reported are from the previous calendar year.

Legislative Report

The bill requires the DVA commissioner to submit, by January 1, 2016, a report to the Veterans' Affairs and PRI committees. The report must include a plan (1) for providing transitional housing and permanent supportive housing to veterans at the Veterans' Home or other department-determined locations and (2) regarding on-campus work programs for residents.

The report must also include a plan for implementing the recommendations the PRI Committee approved on December 19, 2014 relating to:

1. appropriate staffing for such transitional housing and permanent supportive housing,

2. Veterans' Home residents and new applicants' housing needs and preferences assessment,

3. admission of people with a psychiatric history,

4. providing semiprivate or private rooms to residents,

5. residential care fees,

6. providing life and vocational skills classes for residents,

7. recruiting volunteers and efforts to encourage residents to volunteer in the community,

8. safety and security rules and procedures for residents,

9. procedures for addressing rule violations by residents,

10. providing transitional housing that facilitates successful discharge to independent living and encourages personal responsibility,

11. providing permanent supportive housing that recognizes long-term stays and encourages independence,

12. improvement of substance use treatment services, and

13. the care of Veterans' Home residents who are aging in place.

Chief Fiscal Officer Report

The bill requires the DVA CFO to semiannually submit a plain language report to each Veterans' Home resident detailing how the institutional general welfare fund was used in the previous six months to directly benefit veterans or the home. The report must include a (1) prominently displayed statement encouraging residents to submit suggestions for projects the fund may support and (2) submission form.

By law, the CFO must submit an itemized list of expenditures from the institutional general welfare fund to the commissioner at least every two months.

BACKGROUND

Veterans' Home

The Connecticut State Veterans' Home provides domiciliary and 24-hour nursing care to eligible veterans. Domiciliary care consists of shelter, food, and some social services.

Most domiciliary care residents live in the main residential facility. Others participate in a residential substance use treatment program with separate housing, live somewhat independently in campus apartments for a short time, or reside in one of several single-family houses across the street from the main home campus. The nursing care residents live in the separate building, the Health Care Facility.

The Home accounted for 97% of DVA's total budget in FY 14, with a total cost of nearly $28 million.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Program Review and Investigations Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

9

Nay

0

(03/13/2015)