A bill in the legislature would authorizes up to $63 million in bonds for the construction of veterans’ homes.  There’s a chronic need for more beds in Missouri, but there’s no federal money available for expansion.

Representative Lindell Shumake (R-Hannibal) photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications

As a result, House Republican Lindell Shumake of Hannibal, who’s sponsoring the bill, says the best use of the money might be to replace an existing home.

“Say if we decided to replace one, as opposed to building a brand new one, then in that case, as long as we stayed within the number of beds that were allotted by the federal government, we could get federal funds.”

Replacing a home in such a way would save money because the state wouldn’t have to spend all the dollars called for in Shumake’s bill.

The choice of whether to allocate the money for expanding beds by building a new facility or replacing an existing home lies with the Missouri Veteran’s Commission.  But Shumake says the way the money would be used has been influenced by the federal government.

“Because we couldn’t get the federal government to increase our number of beds here in Missouri, it looks to me like our best shot would be to replace a home.”

According to Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson, there are 1,300 veteran beds available while there are upwards to 2,200 eligible veterans on a waiting list.

Missouri has an unusually large veteran population, ranking 15th in the country at nearly 500,000.  It also has more veteran homes than most other states at seven.  Of them, the oldest facility in Mexico would likely be the one to be replaced.

Since Shumake’s measure calls for bonds to be issued, voter approval would be necessary because the state constitution would have to be amended.

It’s one of nine bills in the current legislature dealing with veterans’ issues.  One of them would add a 10th member to the Veteran’s Commission.  Another waives certain business fees for veterans.

None has advanced any further than Shumake’s, which has passed out of committee but has stalled on the House floor.

He’s trying for the third straight year to get a bill addressing veterans’ homes through the legislature.  A bill he filed last year discarded on the final day of the session.