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VA to build two new nursing homes for vets in NC

North Carolina has received $24 million in federal stimulus funds to build two new nursing homes for veterans. Each will have room for 100 veterans. State officials say the facilities are long-overdue. Way back in 1994, a legislative study recommended the state build four nursing homes for veterans - two in the central part of the state and one each in the East and West. To this day only two of those homes exist - in Salisbury and Fayetteville - with room for only about 250 veterans total. "The need has been there for many years, but the funding has not been there," says Charles Smith, director of the North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs. The NC General Assembly allocated its share of funding for the two new nursing homes in 2006. Matching money awarded by the federal government this week means veterans nursing homes in Kinston to the east and Swannanoa near Asheville should be open by 2012. Smith says the facilities will cost a total of $40 million. Until now, veterans with long-term care needs living in those regions have had only private nursing home options. Smith says many veterans would prefer a state-run nursing home. "We give better care," says Smith. "We have more hours of nurses per veteran than a typical nursing home would have." And Smith says North Carolina's Veterans homes tend to be less expensive - about $85 a day. That's half the average cost per day in a private nursing home, according North Carolina figures from the AARP.