Residents will soon have to start paying to stay at the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home in Augusta. (WRDW-TV / May 28, 2012)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, May 28, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It has been a free service for the men and women who served our country for more than 40 years, but now veterans will have to pay to stay there -- all thanks to House Bill 535.
Every branch of the military was represented as Augusta marked Memorial Day at the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home.
"It is a solemn day for our veterans that live here at Georgia War," said Executive Director Charles Esposito.
Ruby Kleinrath enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps in 1945. Memorial Day is an especially moving time for her each year.
"I consider it an honor and a privilege to have taken care of our precious hero veterans," Kleinrath said.
This year Kleinrath is left wondering who will take care of her now that she is being hit with a new fee to stay in the home.
"I thought, 'Uh oh,'" she said. "There is another letdown from our government."
"We are actually the only state in the union that still doesn't charge to live in this type of home," Esposito said. " We were proud of that fact."
It is being called a sign of the times. A service that was free will now go to at least $700 a month for the close to 200 veterans living at the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home.
"Obviously, some folks don't know how to balance a budget without cutting back on essential services," said Congressman John Barrow who feels the men and women in uniform should not fall victim to the budget ax in their golden years. "That's unacceptable to me. We should not be increasing the cost to folks who come here to live out the rest of their lives."
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver agrees.
"It's just an unfortunate circumstance with budget situations at the state, local and national level," Copenhaver said.
"I think it is unjustifiable," said veteran Albert Jones.
"Our government should remember its promises and fulfill them," Kleinrath said.
The fee is expected to start this fall. It will be used for operations. Building managers say they hope the new fee will allow them to make renovations and house more veterans.