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Veterans Protest Change in Plans for Care Home

Saticoy: Several speak out at a meeting of the governor's commission after project is reduced from 400 beds to 100.


After listening to disgruntled veterans voice their displeasure Monday with plans to build a smaller nursing home in Saticoy than proposed, members of a state board toured the 22-acre site.

About 40 local veterans attended a meeting of the Governor's Commission on California Veterans Homes to complain that the state reneged on a promise to build a 400-bed home near the Santa Clara River, reducing it to 100 beds instead.

"I started working on this 10 years ago, and we're still fighting to make this happen," said LeRoy Andrews, an 81-year-old World War II veteran from Ventura. "We're still listening to all kinds of excuses and reasons as to why you changed your mind."

A previous commission comprised of different members had agreed to build the 400-bed facility on the donated Saticoy property, but the proposal was revised this year under pressure from the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which will cover more than half of the $86-million cost of the overall proposal, wanted a veterans home in Los Angeles with specialized care for those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease, said board member Bruce Thiesen. The largest concentration of California's 2.3 million veterans reside in or near Los Angeles.

As a result, commissioners developed a plan to build a 500-bed center on the grounds of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in West Los Angeles, with 100-bed homes to be built in Saticoy and Lancaster.

The package also includes money to upgrade and renovate the 118-year-old state veterans home in the Northern California town of Yountville, which was first opened to serve Civil War veterans. It also contains a provision to seek funding from the federal government for new homes in Shasta County and Fresno.

But Chuck Bennett of Ojai, chairman of the Tri-County Veterans Home Coalition, which represents 12 veterans organizations, said he was not impressed with the new proposal.

"We're being railroaded a little bit here," Bennett told the board. "We were told one thing, and now we're starting to get another story. You made some decisions, and you should stick by them."

The 12-member commission, made up primarily of veterans appointed by Gov. Gray Davis, met at Ventura City Hall before touring the Saticoy site, which was donated by Archstone Communities, a developer based in Irvine.

The farmland on Telephone Road between Wells and Saticoy roads is covered with citrus trees, which would be removed to make way for the nursing home.

An appropriations package sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Wesson (D-Culver City), which would fund the state's portion of the homes, was approved by the Assembly last week on a 79-0 vote. It next goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

If all goes according to plan, the Saticoy home would open in the summer of 2007, serving 60 live-in residents and 40 day-care patients.

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