For the past several months, residents of the Minneapolis veterans home at 5101 Minnehaha Ave. feared covert plans were underway to relocate them to Hastings.
Veterans had heard rumors from sympathetic staffers that they would soon be asked to leave their families and jobs in the city as part of a cost-saving merger of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs' domiciliary programs. Without revealing details of the timeline for these plans, MDVA partially confirmed their suspicions in a June 9 town hall meeting, where deputy commissioner Doug Hughes tried to promote the unpopular Hastings campus as a better alternative to their current quarters near Minnehaha Falls.
Anxious that plans were drawn up without their knowledge, and the final decision would be made without their input, veterans reached out for help from the governor's office as well as to Sen. Matt Little (DFL-Lakeville), who sits on the Senate's veterans affairs committee.
Little then met with MDVA officials, and learned that they had been preparing to make a final recommendation regarding the move to the governor this fall. Little says he wasn't surprised to learn the veterans agency was trying to make their dollars stretch, following a rocky legislative session legislative session where funding for veterans became a battle despite Minnesota's $1.65 billion budget surplus.
Nevertheless, Little says, he told MDVA that he was disappointed in how the department communicated with the veterans.
"I don't think it was open at the beginning. I think they've been better since," Little says. "My meeting was focused on making sure that veterans in Minneapolis, if it is decided to close the Minneapolis location, were taken care of ... and that they would have the ultimate choice of where they decided to go."
About a week following City Pages' initial coverage of this merger, MDVA announced the proposed move was now off the table. In a statement, veterans commissioner Larry Shelito said:
"After much research, clinical analysis and collaboration with various stakeholders, it has been determined that a consolidation of these programs into a single campus will not occur at this time.
To reach this decision, MDVA considered many variables that were at play, including cost analysis. However, our decision to keep the two programs in different locations was guided by our responsibility to meet the full needs of all of our residents, in the most comprehensive way possible. At this time, that means MDVA will continue to operate the two programs separately."
So for now, Minneapolis veterans will get to stay in their homes.
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