Rifle vets home in no danger of closing, official says | AspenTimes.com

Rifle vets home in no danger of closing, official says

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo. – A veterans nursing home in Rifle has had some problems in recent years, a state official conceded on Tuesday, but it is not in danger of shutting down.

“I think it is unfortunate that they chose that wording,” said Liz McDonough of the Colorado Department of Social Services, which oversees the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Homes system, referring to a recent state auditor’s report that cast the Rifle facility’s future in doubt.

McDonough, who could not be reached prior to a Dec. 24 Post Independent story about the matter, acknowledged that the Rifle facility experienced administrative difficulties and that it had been operating in the red.

But, she added, red ink at veterans nursing homes is covered by a special state fund, independent of the state’s troubled general fund budget, and “it is not in danger of closing.”

A state audit report released earlier this year cited the home for losing money in five of the last 10 years, cautioned that the facility was $2.8 million in the hole, and warned that the administration was spending considerably more than it took in every year.

The Rifle facility is one of only a handful around the state that meets the requirements of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and receives funding from the VA benefits programs.

The Rifle vets home has 100 beds for skilled nursing care, including a 16-bed Special Care Unit for residents with Alzheimer’s Disease or related conditions, and – as of this year – 75 percent of its occupants were veterans.

The auditor’s report was for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, but the summary statement notes that “the home has had substantial losses over the prior periods” and that the accumulated losses “raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”

McDonough granted that “there were issues that needed to be addressed,” but added, “We were in the process of addressing them when the audit came out. We’ve been working on turning things around for quite some time.”

She said the Rifle vets home has had a new administrator since the end of 2009, and that the facility had posted a profit of $165,254 for July 1 through Oct. 31, the first part of the current fiscal year.

In addition, she said, a remodel of the facility is planned for 2011 at a cost of $2 million. She said 65 percent of that money will come from the U.S. Veterans Administration, and the rest will come out of the state’s “505 Fund,” which is the special enterprise fund for veterans homes.

Although the audit was critical of the proportion of the Rifle home’s revenues that goes toward salaries and benefits for employees, McDonough said those salaries and benefits are set by the state.

She said the staff at the Rifle home was not cut, and that future budgetary improvements are expected to come from energy savings and from the 505 Fund.

“We believe that they are on a positive path,” McDonough said of the facility.


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