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November 23, 2014

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Found money has a keeper that wants it

Veterans office must give up $1.9 million — and make cuts

Rare is the time one desperately needs cash, and a check falls in your lap.

But that’s what seemed to happen to Tim Tetz, director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services.

Just as he was trying to cut his budget by $1.7 million to satisfy the governor’s office, he learned the federal government is giving the agency $1.9 million more than expected for the veterans home in Boulder City.

Amazing!

Tetz thought his budget woes were solved despite the state’s revenue crunch.

Not so fast.

The state requires its agencies to relinquish any unexpected surplus money from outside sources. So, the state is seizing the $1.9 million from Medicaid — and still ordering the agency to make cuts.

Tetz doesn’t think a budget rule should take money from veteran programs — but if it does, then cut the veterans some slack on the new budget.

“We’re ready to hand you $1.9 million in cash right now,” Tetz said of his plea to the state. Now, “just leave us alone.”

But Andrew Clinger, state budget czar, said the rules are clear.

“We are not trying to be mean to the veterans,” he said. “We treat every agency the same way.”

The $1.9 million from Medicaid is for operating the veterans home the past two years. It can’t be applied to upcoming budgets, Clinger said.

Bill Crowley, president of the National Association of State Veterans Homes, said the association is seeking a legal opinion on whether the state is violating federal code by taking Medicaid money for the general fund.

“It’s reprehensible that any state government would consider using funds specified for the care of elderly and disabled veterans for anything other than that,” he said.

For Medicaid’s part, its regional office says it met its obligation to pay the cost of taking care of veterans at the home and has no further role in what’s going on at the state level.

Tetz and angry veterans plan on bringing up the issue in the upcoming Legislature.

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