PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - The wife of a veteran makes a desperate Call for Action after learning her husband with Alzheimer's disease may have to move out of a state-run VA nursing home. She claims it was all over an "active duty" service discrepancy.
"I get a call from the business office of [Douglas T.] Jacobson telling me that it looks like he doesn't qualify for veterans benefits and they're looking at discharge," recalled Sue Gittins.
Sue's husband, Howard, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease eight years ago.
"I was grief-stricken. And to be honest with you, I have been in mourning for eight years," she told us.
At the end of May, Sue learned that she could move Howard into Douglas T. Jacobson in Port Charlotte, the state VA nursing home.
"I heard they had wonderful care, so that was high on my list. But also, most definitely, the price because now I only have to pay $2,300 a month versus $5,300," said Sue.
So she was surprised when a few weeks after moving her husband in, she got a life-changing phone call.
"I almost cracked up the car, obviously, I mean I was just very, very upset," remembered Sue.
She says the VA told her she had to either take Howard out or pay a lot more to keep him there.
"$190 a day they would charge me," she explained.
Scared, Sue got on the phone and put a call into her State Senator and she called WINK News Call for Action. Sue then explained the situation to us as she understood it.
"They said he's not registered as a veteran because he served only 180 days, of active duty, instead of 181. Even though he was a captain in the military intelligence and in the reserves for ten years," she said.
We immediately contacted the Federal VA and State VA. By the next day, we were assured that everyone wanted Howard to stay put and not pay more.
We also called the State Senator that Sue had called, Republican Senator Nancy Detert.
"The VA was very supportive in this instance," said Senator Detert. "...This particular nursing home occupant really missed the deadline by one day, but the Florida VA worked with the nursing home and convinced them to keep the guy at the lower rate."
And Sue thinks that's exactly where he should stay.
"I think they ought to just let it go this time and leave him where he is. To transition him again would be cruel," she said.
We contacted the State VA for a comment and here's what they sent us about the issue:
"The gentleman is a resident at the Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans' Nursing Home in Port Charlotte and is being cared for by our dedicated staff of professionals. The gentleman's wife and our nursing home leadership continue to work together on his care plan and seek additional service-related documents to support potential compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. There are no plans to discharge the resident nor seek additional reimbursements at this time."
The bottom line is: the state says it is committed to treating Howard and Sue says he's getting excellent care.
The Federal VA tells us the state looks at all the paperwork before a patient is admitted then forwards it to the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs for reimbursement.
The feds caught a problem over active duty requirements and flagged it.
But again, the bottom line is Howard is not going anywhere.