By Jacob Brooks | Herald staff writer
[Sunday, August 9, 2015] – There are eight state veterans homes in Texas, including the William R. Courtney State Veterans Home in Temple.
“They are owned by the state. It’s not a VA facility,” said Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office and Veterans Land Board, which oversee the homes.
The homes started as an unmet need that has grown substantially in the past 10 years, officials said.
There are no Department of Veterans Affairs nursing homes in the state, Suydam said. “That’s why the need for these homes are so great.”
A ninth home is being planned for the Houston area. Suydam said the VA pays for construction costs through a grant, and then the state covers the maintenance and operation costs.
“It doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything,” he said.
Funding comes from the Veterans Land Board’s land and home loan program. The interest from those loans “pays for the operation and maintenance of these homes,” Suydam said.
The same program also pays for the maintenance and operations of the state veterans cemeteries, including one in Killeen.
Some residents of the homes also pay a daily fee to live in the home, which covers expenses. Veterans with a 70 percent or higher medical disability connection can live there for free, according to the Veterans Land Board. Other veterans pay $62 to $76 per day. Spouses pay $146 per day if paying privately or more if using Medicaid.
In addition to Temple, the other state veterans homes in Texas are in Amarillo, Big Spring, Bonham, El Paso, McAllen, Tyler and Floresville.
They become a “focal point” for communities and groups who want to support and thank veterans, officials said. The William R. Courtney home in Temple has four motorcycle clubs that support the home, as well as other supporters.
All have between 100 and 160 beds, and a limited number of Alzheimer’s beds.
Each one of the homes “are full of war heroes,” Suydam said. “You don’t want to drop the ball on them.”
The homes, officials said, are the envy of other states. San Antonio-based Touchstone Communities has a contract with the state to run all eight homes.