The local effort to build the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home in Cleveland moved up to 47th on the priority list published recently by the Veterans Administration.
The priority list serves as the VA’s basis for awarding state home grants in 2011. The money has not been allocated by the federal government, so it is unclear if there will be enough money to fund the local home this fiscal year.
Joe Davis is a Bradley County Veterans Services Officer and a member of the State Veterans Home Committee. He said they plan to have the John Simmons Memorial Dinner again in 2011, and continue selling flags and holding a golf tournament.
He said the dinner netted more than $4,000 for very little effort on the part of the local veterans home council. Also, they have sold the first 100 U.S. flags and are ready to begin selling the next 100. Each flag costs $150 and bears an inscribed metal plate on each flag staff.
The flags are displayed on holidays in the courthouse plaza. The next occasion will be Presidents Day in February.
SETVH Council Co-chair Cid Heidl reported the organization has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 organization, which allows for tax-exempt donations.
“That gives us more credibility in terms of asking people for money,” Heidl said.
The list of veterans home projects includes a home in Clarksville ranked 41st. It is the first home on the list for new construction. The top 40 projects include one new construction in Alabama that was partially funded in 2010; three life-safety issues and 36 renovation projects.
There are 49 projects in Group I totaling an estimated $296 million. In 2010, the VA allocated $261 million for renovations and new construction, according to Davis.
The VA would have to allocate approximately $227 million in order to fund the home in the local 2011 cycle. The veterans home in Cleveland catapulted from 123rd in Group 6 in 2009 to the 51st spot in Group 1 in 2010.
The SETVH Council recently met with State Sen. Mike Bell and State Reps. Eric Watson, Kevin Brooks and John Forgety to brief them on the priority list and discuss possible legislation to help pay the initial operating costs of the two new projects until they are certified by Medicaid, Medicare and the VA.
Watson said the legislators discussed a recurring source of money by creating a specialty license plate. He said 1,000 people would have to commit to purchasing a plate before the vanity plate could be approved.
Ed Harries, the State Veterans Home Board executive director who was also at the meeting, said the start-up cost is the biggest obstacle the home could face after being built. There is a lag time of at least six months before the veterans home is certified.