AUGUSTA — Today, the Maine Legislature gave initial approval to legislation from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to prevent the closure of the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Caribou and Machias. The vote was unanimous in both the House and the Senate. LD 2001 faces a final enactment vote in the Senate before heading to the governor’s desk.
“When the Maine Legislature established the Maine Veterans’ Homes, we made a commitment to the men and women serving in our nation’s armed forces to repay their service by making sure they could get the care they need in their later years. For 35 years, the state has kept this promise. To close these facilities now and move veterans out of their homes and away from their families for no good reason is simply unacceptable,” said President Jackson. “I’m so grateful that my colleagues in the Senate and House joined me in unanimously supporting LD 2001 on an initial vote. It’s only fitting that we would reaffirm our commitment to Maine veterans by taking this up on National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Now it’s time to get this bill across the finish line and stop the closure dead in its tracks.”
The amended version of the bill — LD 2001, “An Act To Fund and Support the Veterans Homes in Caribou and Machias and Require Legislative Approval for the Establishment and Closure of Veterans Homes” —makes clear the intent of the Legislature in the creation of the Maine Veterans’ Homes; lays out a public and transparent closure process that requires legislative approval; and puts back into statute the six municipalities where Maine Veterans’ Homes must be located.
“Our veterans should be able to get the long-term care they need while also remaining in their communities and near loved ones. The Maine Veterans’ Homes’ (MVH) greatest strength is the ability to provide an unparalleled level of care to veterans living in facilities located in different parts of the state,” said Sen. Craig Hickman, Senate Chair of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. “Our committee unanimously voted to advance legislation that will keep the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Caribou and Machias open and serving the residents in their care. This was a deeply emotional public hearing and work session and I’m proud of the thoughtful work that was done in our committee in partnership with President Jackson, the Mills Administration and MVH leadership.”
President Jackson introduced the bill after learning that the CEO and Board of the Maine Veterans’ Homes had decided to close the facilities in Caribou and Machias effective this spring. The news became public in February although the Board voted last October.
The Maine Veterans’ Homes were established by the Maine Legislature in 1977 as a quasi-state nonprofit to provide long-term care to veterans and eligible military spouses. The Maine Veterans’ Homes now operates six facilities throughout the state located in Augusta, Caribou, Bangor, Machias, Scarborough, and South Paris. The location of each facility was determined by the Maine Legislature and written into statute. In 2016, the Maine Legislature passed a law that made a number of technical changes that included stripping the location-specific language from statute. LD 2001 puts the location-specific language back into statute.