CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia Senate Military Committee endorsed a bill Tuesday to allow construction of a 120-bed veterans nursing home in Raleigh County.
The bill allows the agriculture commissioner to transfer 17 acres next to the Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley to the secretary of Veterans' Assistance for the new center.
Sen. Mike Green, a Democrat from Raleigh County who sponsored the bill, said the only existing nursing home for veterans in the state is located in Clarksburg and has a waiting list. West Virginia's veteran population is now more than 200,000 and there is an "overwhelming and growing need" for additional nursing home beds to accommodate vets, he added.
World War II Veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient Woodrow "Woody" Williams spoke to the committee in favor of the bill.
"This has been a need for a long time. Shortly after the nursing facility in Clarksburg came into operation, they already had a waiting list. I'm told the wait is about three years. There are 150 individual applications on file in Clarksburg seeking use of the facility," Williams said.
Williams noted that the proposed center would allow closer access to veterans in southern West Virginia.
Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, said he reached out to Williams and other veterans' organizations to be sure Raleigh County is an ideal location. While there are similar needs in other areas of the state, Jenkins said he was told "Beckley should be first."
The bill also allows funds for construction and operation of the nursing home to be appropriated from the Veterans Lottery Fund, Veterans Nursing Homes Building Fund, and the Veterans Nursing Home Debt Service Fund.
The bill has been passed to the Senate Finance Committee.