Letter to the Editor

Funding care for veterans

The people of Southeast Missouri have a lengthy history of giving verbal support to military veterans. This support finds specific expression in the following paragraph from Gov. Parson's press release for last year's Veterans Day:

"On this Veterans Day, I encourage all Missourians to honor the service, sacrifice, and courage of our nation's veterans. These brave men and women deserve the highest appreciation and utmost respect not just today but every day,..."

However, our deeds do not always match our words.

Six of the state's seven nursing homes for veterans are not admitting new residents because of an ongoing staffing shortage linked to dismally low pay rates. For example, in one category of nurses, the turnover rate was over 100% in the past year. This is not difficult to comprehend because the pay rate for certain nurses is $7.70 an hour less than what they can get in private facilities for doing the same work.

The Missouri Veterans Commission is seeking an infusion of $5 million to help boost worker pay. It argues that the continued operation of the homes is "at risk" if current funding levels are not increased. But, without a special legislative session, the earliest the money can arrive is next year.

Obviously, words are meaningless unless backed by action. It seems to me that an immediate special legislative session to authorize the requested funds would be a good way for our elected representatives to prepare for the celebration of this year's Veterans Day.

JOHN PIEPHO, Cape Girardeau