Friday, November 05, 1999

Portman: Nursing home for Southern Ohio veterans in works

Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — A Veterans Administration nursing home to serve Southern Ohio veterans, including those from Hamilton County, could soon be a reality, Rep. Rob Portman said Thursday.

        The VA has put a 168-bed facility proposed for Georgetown in Brown County on its list of high-priority projects, said Mr. Portman, R-Terrace Park.

        The facility would be near the Brown County Airport, a site recommended by a state panel.

        Construction of the $13 million facility, to be built with $7.8 million in federal funds, could begin within the next 12 months, said Portman press aide Brian Besanceney.

        Mr. Portman has lobbied Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West to get a southern Ohio office and has worked with the House Appropriations Committee to make the funds available.

        Southern Ohio has no VA nursing home, despite nearly 150,000 veterans living in Southwest Ohio and close to 400,000 living south of Interstate 70, Mr. Portman's office said.

        “This is great news for Georgetown, for Brown County and for veterans throughout southern Ohio,” Mr. Portman said.

        The only nursing home facili ty now serving Ohio veterans is in Sandusky, on Lake Erie. Of its 600 beds, only eight are occupied by veterans from Southern Ohio, said Mr. Besanceney. There also is a veterans' nursing home in Fort Thomas.

        Veterans immediately applauded the news.

        “It would be great for veterans of Southern Ohio,” said Howard “Shorty” Kabler of Ripley.

        Mr. Kabler, 76, is an activist on veterans' issues in Brown County and formerly served on the board of directors of the Sandusky facility. He fought in France after the 1944 D-day invasion.

        Even if a Southern Ohio veteran can get into Sandusky, he said, the distance to it creates a hardship for relatives who want to visit.

        Mr. Portman credited Brown County commissioners, state Rep. Rose Vesper, R-New Richmond, and state Sen. Doug White, R-Manchester, with helping to persuade state officials to agree to the Georgetown site.


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