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WDVA COVID-19 messages and status updates for family members of Veterans Homes residents

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Update on WDVA Budget Reduction

Dear Veterans Community,

For the past several months, we have shared information on how COVID-19 has been affecting our State Veterans Homes and operations in our WDVA Service Centers and Offices. Our Homes have been working around the clock to keep our Veterans, Family Members, and Staff safe from this horrible virus, and they’ve done an outstanding job.

We want to let you know about a new challenge WDVA faces, statewide budget reductions.  Last week, state agencies were asked to identify a 15% reduction to General Fund-State spending for Fiscal Year 2021.  This is because the state’s budget has been reduced considerably due in large part to a lack of sales tax collections in the current COVID-19 economy.   

At this point, we do not know whether this will be the only reduction plan we are required to submit, whether our proposal will be changed, or whether additional reductions will be proposed. 

We know that any reductions will be painful, not only to our veterans community but also to our WDVA Family, and it was incredibly difficult to submit these options.  Below is a preliminary list of reductions totaling the required 15% of the WDVA General Fund-State operating budget.  Please remember, it is likely this will change as we move through the process with OFM and the legislature. 

 

 

FY20

FY21

 

Dollars in thousands     

 

No 3% COLA beginning July 1 for agency leaders

 

143

 

Furlough days for agency leaders

 

221

 

Do not fill new LGBTQ Program Coordinator position

 

128

 

Do not fill new Military Spouse Liaison position

 

128

 

Reduce VSO Contracts by 14%

 

224

 

Reduce General Fund State at the Homes by 15% (savings from overtime, no use of agency staff, transportation efficiencies, etc.)

 

2,160

 

Phase out the Domiciliary Program and relocate staff (this will require going through a reduction in force process; however, the intent is to keep all existing staff and utilize vacant positions).

 

101

 

Reduce agency travel, training, supplies, conference attendance, etc.

 

164

 

Reassign the Construction Project Coordinator position to the Capital Budget versus the Operating Budget

135

135

 

Delay an Information Technology network equipment refresh for 6 months

 

26

 

Delay renewal of PC/laptop leases until FY22

 

15

 

Leave Information Services Network Engineer position vacant for 2 months

 

21

 

Homes Program GF-S reduction already assumed

224

146

 

 

 

 

FY 20-21 Total

Total

$359,000

$3.6M

$3.9M

One of our goals in identifying these items was to spread small reductions across many programs and positions, rather than eliminating them. While most of the list is focused on WDVA staff or efficiencies within our programs, there are two reductions that will impact Veterans and their Families directly – the Domiciliary Program and the VSO contracts.

Domiciliary Program: Over eleven years ago, WDVA made a decision to stop admitting residents into the Domiciliary program in order to phase it out.  We significantly downsized and were able to transition over 70 Veterans Home and Soldiers Home Domiciliary residents into community living arrangements.  Those who moved realized that the change resulted in a higher level of independence, privacy, quality of life and closer connections to their own communities.

In 2018, new Domiciliary Care Rules were issued.  These rules increased the number of direct care staff and administrative and care requirements.   At the same time, the per day payments that support the program were not increased.  In short, the program is unsustainable without additional General Fund-State dollars.  We tried to hang on as long as possible and let the program phase out by attrition; however, given the circumstances that we’re in and the fact that we believe we can place these individuals in a far more appropriate community living situations, we have made the decision to discontinue the program.  This situation is not unique to Washington, as many states in the nation are also discontinuing their Domiciliary programs.  We are committed to not only placing the residents of the Domiciliary program in appropriate community living situations, we are also committed to the Domiciliary Program staff and will work with them through the appropriate CBA processes to relocate them to other positions.

VSO Contracts: We currently contract with Veteran Service Organizations to provide statewide claims support to Veterans and their Families.  These contracts allow VSOs to strategically place service officers in areas of the state where WDVA does not have a presence. We know that reducing funding to these contracts will result in longer waits for appointments with service officers and possible delays in receiving VA benefits and services; however, veterans needing assistance will still be served.  Our WDVA team will pick up as much of this work as their schedules allow and veterans can always call 1-800-562-2308 for assistance.  During previous rounds of budget cuts, we have been able to leave these contracts untouched; however, given the constraints we currently face, it simply is not possible at this time.  We made the difficult decision to reduce the contracts rather than having to eliminate other programs altogether and will work with our VSO leadership to reduce the impact on services as much as possible and provide guidance on how veterans in impacted areas can still connect with Your Washington Department of Veterans Affairs.

These are difficult decisions to make, but the reality is that the state’s budget is significantly smaller than anyone thought it would be and every agency has been required to find places for reductions.  I also know that we can get through this.  We’ve been through budget reductions before and have come out the other side with even stronger community partnerships to help connect veterans and their families to their earned benefits. 

That’s what we’ve always done and that’s what we’ll continue to do…Serving Those Who Served!

We will continue to share information on what the final reductions will be in the coming months.