The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates a nursing home program that provides or pays for veterans' care in three nursing home settings: VA-operated nursing homes, community nursing homes, and state veterans' nursing homes. In addition, veterans needing nursing home care may also receive it from non-VA providers that are not funded by VA. VA is faced with a large elderly veteran population, many of whom may be in need of nursing home care. In 2004, 38 percent of the nation's veteran population was over the age of 65, compared with 12 percent of the general population. The Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act (Millennium Act) of 1999 and VA policy require that VA provide nursing home care to certain veterans. This statement focuses on VA's nursing home program and trends in nursing home expenditures, trends in the number of patients served, or "patient workload," and key challenges VA faces in planning for nursing home care for veterans. To examine these trends, GAO updated information from prior work with spending and patient workload data for fiscal year 2005 that VA provided. In a November 2004 report, GAO presented spending and patient workload data through fiscal year 2003. GAO discussed the updated information with VA and incorporated comments as appropriate.
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