It is an axiom of modern American politics that everyone must profess, loudly and in unison, that they "support the troops." But how does the rhetoric stack up against the facts? Consider the plight of veterans who, owing to old age and infirmity, require skilled nursing care. At the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis,
applicants for beds in the nursing home wing typically must wait between 10 and 12 months for one to open up. The 314 veterans on the waiting list
alone could nearly fill the total number of beds available (341). Steve Musser, executive director of the Minnesota Veterans Homes, says circumstances have improvement from six months ago when the list hit 400. But Musser acknowledges the need to shorten the wait. After all, it's not as if the the typical veterans home user has that much time left: at an average age of 78, a majority of residents in the skilled care ward suffers from either Alzheimers or dementia. That fact notwithstanding, Minnesota's five veterans homes have had limited success in their appeals to the state legislature to expand services and facilities. Last session, for instance, lawmakers rejected a request for 21 new beds at the veterans home in Fergus Falls and approved just $5.5 million of the overall $17.6 million in projects submitted for consideration under the bonding bill. "Obviously you don't get everything you ask for," Musser adds. "But we wish more of these projects were funded. We'll just have to keep at it."