TheSubcommittee on Health and Human Services of the Special Advisory Commission of Senior Citizens was held on Thursday, November 1, 2007, and Friday, November 2, 2007 at the Capitol Plaza, Holiday Inn Hotel, in Frankfort, Kentucky. Jeane Robertson, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Jeane Robertson, Chair; Peggy Chadwick, Joe Doebler, Don Helton, Betty Huff, Ray Kremer, Phillip Martin, Vivian Niece, Nancy Purvis, Lillian Rice, Pat Sutton, Ernest Taylor, and Mary Trimble.
LRC Staff: Miriam Fordham and Cindy Smith.
The Health and Human Services Subcommittee focused on two main topics during its Thursday meeting: (1) a presentation on the 2008 legislative agenda for services to seniors, provided by Mark Birdwhistell, Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services; and, (2) a presentation on veterans issues affecting seniors, provided by Marty Pinkston, Deputy Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs.
Secretary Birdwhistell outlined the governor’s proposed legislative agenda for improving services to seniors. The plan includes 15 million dollars ($15 million) to help senior citizen programs such as Meals on Wheels, adult day care, and home care. Senior citizens programs would receive five million dollars ($5 million) in new funding in 2009 and 10 million dollars ($10 million) in 2010. The cabinet also plans to propose a tax credit for in-home caregivers of aging relatives diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Although the proposed tax credit would be extended to caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease, the administration is open to expanding to include caregivers for seniors with other conditions.
The administration also plans to propose for legislative consideration establishment of a Kentucky Long Term Care Partnership Insurance Program that would allow residents to buy long-term care insurance to protect some of their savings even if they later apply for Medicaid nursing home coverage. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 contains provisions that allow for sheltering of assets. The administration plans to push for long-term care insurance legislation that was proposed in the 2007 legislative session. Other items include expansion of the consumer directed options program and expanding the Medicaid provider base to include public housing authorities to ensure that individuals can receive non-medical Medicaid services while staying in their residences.
Marty Pinkston discussed veterans’ issues affecting seniors. Currently, there are about 352,000 veterans in Kentucky. A breakdown of the Kentucky veteran population by war period shows that the number of World War II veterans is decreasing such that for the first time they number less than the number of Korean War veterans. The majority of veterans are Vietnam era and their average age is 59 to 60 years of age while the average age of World War II veterans is 83 years of age.
The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA) provides services in four key areas: health care, benefits, cemeteries, and special programs. The KDVA health care services involve the care provided for veterans in state homes with skilled nursing care and coordinating with the federal health care delivery system for veterans. In the benefits area, the KDVA assists veterans and their dependents in filing claims for state and federal veterans’ benefits. Currently, there are seven federal cemeteries in Kentucky, but four are full and the remaining three are not dispersed geographically. In order to serve more areas, the KDVA has opened two new cemeteries with a third one under construction. The KDVA operates several special programs including the high school diploma program and the Korean War MIA Project. The high school diploma program allows veterans from specified war periods to obtain their high school degree. The Korean War MIA Project collects DNA from family members of missing veterans to assist in identifying them in the event the veterans’ remains are found.
The KDVA plans to propose several items during the 2008 legislative session. The KDVA legislative agenda includes expansion of the Western Kentucky Veterans Center; construction of a fourth state veterans home; establishing a conservator program to help incapacitated veterans, and, legislation to prohibit misrepresentation of veteran status.
During the session on Friday, the subcommittee discussed and formulated the slate of legislative recommendations. The subcommittee's legislative recommendations are as follows:
(1) Urge the 2008 General Assembly to increase funding for senior citizens programs by $15 million over the 2008–2010 biennium.
(2) Urge the 2008 General Assembly to pass legislation establishing the Golden Alert System to alert citizens of Kentucky when a mentally or physically impaired adult age eighteen (18) or older is reported missing from their home, a facility, or the care of another person.
(3) Support the 2008 legislative agenda of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs in order to:
a. Expand the Western Kentucky Veterans Center;
b. Construct a fourth state veterans home;
c. Establish a conservator program to help incapacitated veterans; and
d. Prohibit misrepresentation of veteran status.