VA still in place at Hillcrest
McCOOK, Neb — The Veteran’s Administration contract is still in place at Hillcrest Nursing Home. The VA contract with Hillcrest is for five years, with Hillcrest in year three. Based on inaccurate information, board president Randy Dean said, the Hillcrest Board of Trustees voted last month to discontinue the VA contract.
At the April meeting, board members were told that up to $500,000 in additional employee health and welfare benefits would be required from Hillcrest to keep the VA contract in place. With only three at the facility drawing VA benefits, board members at the time decided not to continue the contract. Dean said Tuesday morning at the regular board meeting he has been in contact with the VA and the local VA representative, Tom Stritt, and has since learned the proposed employee health and welfare benefits required by the VA and presented to the board last month will not affect Hillcrest. Certain criteria must be met before the facility is required to do so, Dean said, citing that 20 percent of the general population must be veterans drawing VA benefits for a service-related disability before the wage increase and other employee benefits would be mandated.
As of Tuesday, there are 78 residents in the facility, with three VA residents. Historically, the highest number of qualified VA residents residing at one time at Hillcrest has been six. Dean shared this new information with board members at Tuesday’s meeting, after Colinda Nappa, Hillcrest administrator, recommended that the board sign an amendment to the VA contract that would acknowledge that Hillcrest is in compliance with VA guidelines. Nappa said her recommendation were based on conversations she’s had with the Veteran’s Administration and the Nebraska Department of Labor.
Nappa also told the board the facility would not have to adjust health insurance benefits by an additional $4.27 per hour per employee (first presented to the board last month, as part of the mandate to continue the VA contract), as current wages for employees plus the $250 per month per employee for health insurance costs would have covered the proposed required increase. The only adjustment to meet the mandate would have been to add an additional approximate 1 hour per 30 hours worked of sick leave for full-time employees and also make available sick leave for part-time employees, she said.
Dean said the amendment nor the mandates pertain to Hillcrest as the VA contract remains exactly as it is, because less than 20 percent of residents are receiving VA benefits.
By 4 to 1, the board voted Tuesday against signing the amendment and to keep VA residents at under 20 percent. The motion was made by board member Jim Howard, seconded by Mike Eklund, who were joined by board members Randy Dean and Mike Skolout in voting not to sign.
Board member Ann Barger was the lone holdout on the vote.