Governor issues executive order for application of veterans home (Leavenworth Times)

State legislators from Leavenworth County have sponsored bills calling on the director of the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs Office to apply for federal funding for the construction of a veterans home in northeast Kansas. But those bills are moot after the governor issued an executive order calling for such an application.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued Executive Order No. 21-07 on Tuesday. The order states the director of the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs Office “shall submit an initial application to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs” for a grant for the construction of a state veterans home in northeast Kansas. The order calls for the application to be submitted by April 15, 2022.

According to the executive order, a VA grant program pays up to 65% of the cost of the construction of veterans homes.

Kansas has two other state veterans homes located in other regions of the state.

The governor’s order states that “Kansas veterans organizations have made it clear that a new veterans home in northeast Kansas is a top priority.”

State Sen. Jeff Pittman, a Democrat from Leavenworth, sponsored Senate Bill 109 which called for the director of the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs Office to apply for the federal grant funding for a state veterans home to be located in Douglas, Jefferson, Leavenworth, Shawnee or Wyandotte County.

Leavenworth County state Reps. Pat Proctor, David French, Tim Johnson and Lance Neelly, who are all Republicans, sponsored House Bill 2020, which has the same language as the Senate version sponsored by Pittman. The House version also was sponsored by state Rep. Chris Croft of Overland Park and state Rep. Ron Ellis of Meriden.

Kelly’s order mentioned only northeast Kansas rather than specifying specific counties.

Pittman said the grounds of the Eisenhower VA Medical Center in Leavenworth has been mentioned as a possible site for a state veterans home. He said Topeka and Wyandotte County also have been discussed.

Proctor, who represents Leavenworth, said he would prefer to see a state veterans home open in Leavenworth.

“But I just want our veterans to get a home,” he said.

Pittman said a location can be selected in the future. The senator said he does not want the process to be halted at this point because lawmakers cannot agree on a site.

Pittman said an application for a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not guarantee that Kansas will be awarded money from the federal government.

“There’s no guarantee, but we definitely cannot do it if we’re not on the list,” he said.

Pittman believes the density of the veteran population in this region of Kansas and the absence of a state veterans home in the area may give the state’s application an advantage.

Pittman and House members from Leavenworth County also are sponsoring bills in their respective chambers for the issuance of bonds to pay for the state’s share of the cost of constructing a veterans home in northeast Kansas. The Senate and House bills, which have identical language, cap the state’s share of the cost at $17.5 million.

Pittman believes passage of the legislation may help the state in securing the grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

This article originally appeared on the Leavenworth Times website, here.