The Veterans Affairs Department has not cut any services yet, but they may not be avoided if deeper budget cuts are order, an agency official told legislators.
The department has been to use carryover money and will delay filling certain positions to make up the required 5 percent cut in state appropriations, said Steven Diffee, the agency’s program administrator for finance.
The department is holding nonnursing positions open for a longer period before filling them, he said Thursday.
Deeper cuts probably would result in reducing services, which eventually could lead to closing one of the state’s seven veterans centers, Diffee said.
“We’re just at the precipice of service reductions,” he said.
About 85 percent of the agency’s budget is personnel costs; the department cannot cut or furlough nursing personnel without reducing services, he said. U.S. Veterans Affairs Department regulations require the state agency to meet certain staffing requirements.
A cut of another 5 percent would result in closing several beds, which would cause a “death spiral” that eventually would lead to the closing of a veterans center because the state would lose federal funds, Diffee told members of the House appropriations and budget subcommittee on public health.
“You start with shutting down 12 beds, and once you shut down 12 beds you lose about $600,000 in federal funds and that causes your budget shortfall to be a little larger and you’re going to have to shut down more beds after that,” he said. “It just starts spiraling until you lose the whole center.”
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, subcommittee vice chairman, told Diffee legislators don’t want to see a veterans center close.
“That’s not going to happen,” said Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “We don’t want to do that.”
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau