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Schaer, Tucker, Benson & Caputo Bill to Increase Personal Needs Allowance Under Medicaid, SSI for Vets Clears Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Cleopatra Tucker, Daniel R. Benson and Ralph Caputo to ensure that veterans on Medicaid and living in a facility, such as a nursing home or developmental center, have enough money to purchase personal items gained approval from the General Assembly on Thursday.

“This allowance has stayed the same for years while the cost of living in this state has not,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This is an opportunity to help veterans continue to provide for themselves and their families in a changing economy. Requiring cost-of-living adjustments on the allowance is extremely important. New Jersey veterans will not have to wait for another increase in the future.”

The bill (A-1639) would increase the personal needs allowance for veterans and their spouses who are recipients of Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and reside in a nursing home or developmental center or are patients in a psychiatric hospital. The allowance may be used to purchase personal items, such as clothing, grooming aids, newspapers and other items not regularly provided by the facility in which they reside.

“Men and women who were willing to give their lives for this nation shouldn’t feel like the basics are a financial burden,” said Tucker (D-Essex), chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Increasing the personal needs allowance for veterans is just one way in which New Jersey can demonstrate its respect for their service.”

For Medicaid recipients who are veterans or the spouses of veterans, the monthly personal needs allowance would increase to $50 from $35. For recipients of SSI who are veterans or the spouses of veterans, the monthly personal needs allowance would increase to $50 from $40. The bill further provides that these amounts would increase annually, on January 1 of each year, by the same percentage as the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits that year.

In the case of SSI recipients, the bill provides that the Commissioner of Human Services shall administer the $10 increase. The bill also directs the commissioner to apply to the federal government for any Medicaid state plan amendments that may be necessary to increase the allowance, and to seek federal government approval for the commissioner’s administrative plan to implement the increase for SSI recipients in order for the aforementioned increases to be operative.

“Raising the personal needs allowance and tying it to the cost of living will help ensure that veterans in New Jersey can take care of themselves,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This is the least our state can do out of reverence for their service.”

“For low-income, disabled and aging veterans especially, the personal needs allowance may serve as a lifeline,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “The modest increase proposed in this legislation will help improve quality of life for those who fought to preserve the freedom of this nation.”

The measure, which gained unanimous approval in the Assembly, now awaits further Senate consideration.