Numbers given to Legislature don’t add up

Earlier this year, legislators agreed to consider establishing a second state nursing home for West Virginia veterans of military service. That came after lawmakers were told of a long waiting list for vacancies at the existing facility in Clarksburg.

But now, only a couple of months after legislators were told of the problem, it seems to have been nearly eliminated. What gives?

Just last year, there was a waiting list of 166 veterans to get into the home at Clarksburg. Delays of as much as two years between applying and being admitted were not uncommon.

Legislators were told in February it was even worse than that. It was not uncommon for veterans to spend three years on the waiting list at Clarksburg, one proponent of a second facility said. He estimated 150 veterans were waiting for admission.

But on Monday the state Department of Veterans Assistance reported only 55 people were waiting to get into the Clarksburg home. The average delay between application and admission had been cut to six months.

It appears much of the progress was because many veterans stopped trying to get into the home, either out of frustration or because they died.

Lawmakers ought to be concerned about the sudden turnaround – not that it happened, but because it is difficult to believe some of it had not occurred or at least was not anticipated in February. Like the West Virginians they represent, legislators want to do the very best our state can afford for veterans who need help.

But they also don’t like being misled. Clearly, the impression they had earlier this year, on which they based agreement to consider a second veterans home, was misleading.

It may be the state does need another veterans nursing home. There are more than 173,000 military veterans in West Virginia. Of that number, nearly 103,000 are aged 60 or older. So yes, there is reason for concern.

But it does not seem to be as immediate as legislators were led to believe. The next time they are asked to fund a new veterans home, they should insist the numbers they are given be current and accurate.