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Cuomo proposes diverting vets home funds

The director of the Long Island State Veterans Home is crying foul over a state budget-cutting proposal that would force the geriatric nursing facility to provide the general fund with $4.7 million it collects from its patients.

The director, Fred Sganga, said that because the home gets its revenue from patient billings for Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance and federal Veterans Affairs money - and not from the state treasury - the state's general fund has no business raiding its coffers.

Sganga said the diversion would force him to lay off 68 employees from his 503-member staff, including doctors, nurses and lesser-skilled workers.

He said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposed budget, which could eventually include a further 10 percent cut in Medicaid funding, would eliminate more than a quarter of the facility's 350-bed capacity, forcing ousted veterans to go to more-expensive private nursing homes that Sganga said bill an average of $130 more per day.

"For me, I would have to close nursing units, with frail, elderly veterans in them," Sganga said.

A Cuomo spokesman said that while the nursing home's roughly $50-million budget does not receive general fund money, requiring the state-run facility to send $4.7 million to Albany reflects the governor's effort to impose budgetary discipline.

"The state is facing an extraordinary fiscal challenge and we are asking all state entities to sacrifice and do more with less. However, if the Veterans Home feels it is being treated unfairly or harshly relative to other state entities, we will of course take a very close look to see if any relief can or should be given," Cuomo spokesman Joshua Vlasto said in an e-mail.

Last year, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a critical report saying that during the prior fiscal year the state had "swept" $1 billion from dedicated fund sources into the general fund, shortchanging programs ranging from hazardous waste oversight to legal assistance for the poor. DiNapoli called the practice budgetary gimmickry that redirected resources away from their intended target without providing true budgetary stability.

"When you sweep those funds, you take away their ability to address their intended purpose," DiNapoli spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said Friday.

Based on the campus of Stony Brook University, the 350-bed Long Island State Veterans Home is the Island's only state-run nursing home for elderly veterans. Along with a 250-bed facility in St. Albans, Queens, it is one of only five state-run veterans homes in New York. The federal Department of Veterans Affairs has a 120-bed geriatric facility at its Northport complex.

State nursing homes provide long-term care for honorably discharged individuals who served in the active duty military.

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