PA 15-197—sHB 6855

Program Review and Investigations Committee

Veterans' Affairs Committee

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

SUMMARY: This act gives the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) Board of Trustees more oversight over the department. It specifically requires (1) the DVA commissioner to give the board certain information in a timely manner so that it can monitor DVA's performance and (2) the board to review and comment on the DVA budget and major policies concerning the Veterans' Home.

The act increases the voting membership of DVA's Board of Trustees by changing the DVA commissioner's status from that of a voting member to a nonvoting ex-officio member and adding two Veterans' Home residents as voting members, thus increasing the number of voting members from 17 to 18. It also adds certain board appointment and resignation conditions.

It requires: (1) the DVA commissioner to report to the legislature, by February 1, 2016, on a plan for providing transitional and permanent housing and on-campus work programs and (2) an assessment of the feasibility of implementing the Program Review and Investigations Committee's (PRI) recommendations regarding Veterans' Home's operation. It also requires DVA's 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.

Under the act, if the Veterans' Home or health care facility closes, the DVA commissioner must provide or arrange housing for any veteran residing there on the date it closes or ceases to provide housing.

Under the act, the DVA commissioner must amend regulations as necessary to allow Veterans' Home residents, their relatives, or authorized representatives to file a written complaint concerning the home's policies, procedures, and administrative decisions. The regulations must include a procedure for filing such complaints, including deadlines by which complaints must be received, investigated, and acted upon. The commissioner must submit the proposed regulations in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act for public comment by September 29, 2015.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015, except upon passage for the DVA housing requirement and legislative reporting provision.

DVA BOARD OF TRUSTEE OVERSIGHT

The act requires the DVA commissioner to provide the board with information it needs 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 resident veterans 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. quarterly reports summarizing (a) by type, frequency, and resolution, concerns raised by Veterans' Home residents and (b) petitions and complaints filed by Veterans' Home residents and their relatives or authorized representatives the commissioner received for the four preceding months; and

12. copies of such petitions and complaints.

DVA BOARD OF TRUSTEES

Membership

The act increases the voting membership of DVA's Board of Trustees from 17 to 18. It does so by changing the DVA commissioner's, or his designee's status as a voting member to a nonvoting ex-officio member who must attend board meetings, and by adding two Veterans' Home residents as voting members. The two new members must be the respective presidents of the home's veterans' council and home's health care facility council.

Appointments. As under prior law, the board has 16 appointed members, with the governor appointing 10 and the six legislative leaders each appointing one. By law, a majority of the board members must be veterans.

The act also specifies that any vacancy on the board must be filled for the remainder of the term by the appointing authority in the same manner as the original appointment.

Under the act, the governor appoints a board chairperson. Existing law requires the board to meet at least quarterly or upon the DVA commissioner's call. The act also requires the board to meet when the chairperson or a majority of the board members 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) half the meetings in a calendar year.

Board Notices. Under the act, 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

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

The act instead 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 eliminates the requirement that the report be sent to the Public Safety and Security Committee and specifies that the activities being reported must be those from the previous calendar year.

Legislative Report

The act requires the DVA commissioner to submit, by February 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 DVA-determined locations and (2) regarding on-campus work programs for residents.

The report must also include an assessment of the feasibility of the recommendations the PRI Committee approved on December 19, 2014 concerning:

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 encouraging residents' efforts 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 residents' successful discharge to independent living and encourages personal responsibility,

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

12. improving substance use treatment services, and

13. caring for Veterans' Home residents who are aging in place.

CFO Report

The act 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) suggestion 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 near the main home campus. The nursing care residents live in a separate health care facility.

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

OLR Tracking: DC: JR: PF: cmg