Florida Veterans Face Budget and Structure Changes

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Bob Milligan is interim executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs.

At first glance, it appears there is a 44 percent slash in the governor’s proposed budget for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s budget cuts and  agency reductions are now available online. Floridians can compare his recommendations  to the agency’s requests and to current budgets.

If you compare the current state veterans affairs budget  of $81 million to the governor’s proposed budget of $45.5 million, it appears as if Scott is cutting the agency 44 percent.

But that’s not the case. Veterans Affairs spokesman Steve Murray said the governor’s proposal reflects the transfer of the department’s six nursing homes and one assisted living facility, the largest portion of the budget, to a public corporation. 

“This public corporation could report directly to the governor and cabinet,” Murray said. “It would operate in the sunshine. Our agency the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs would work hand in hand with the corporation on veterans issues. We would be able to retain VA funding.”

Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home in Land-o-Lakes is one of six run by the state.

Transferring the veterans’ nursing homes to a public corporation was the idea of retired Marine Lt. Gen. Bob Milligan, interim executive director of Florida Veterans Affairs. 

Milligan took over the agency after the unexpected death of  LeRoy Collins, Jr. His assessment of the agency found that there was a 40 percent turnover rate of workers at the seven veteran care facilities.

Murray said employee turnover is because the  state run facilities the nursing homes can not offer employees competitive salaries and lack flexibility.

So the concept of a public corporation was developed. But, the Veterans’ Affairs two year transfer plan – which allows for a year of planning – is not reflected in the governor’s proposed budget.

Milligan will present his public corporation concept and more fully explain the proposed transfer to the governor and Florida Cabinet later this month.

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