The 120-bed former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs nursing home in Orlando’s Lake Baldwin neighborhood would be transferred to the state of Florida and reopened as a state facility for veterans under a bill that U.S. Rep. John Mica expects to get through the House of Representatives Tuesday.

The facility is part of the old Orlando Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic, which has been closing down and phasing out many of its operations over the past couple of years as the federal agency shifts programs to the new Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which has been opening in phases 20 miles away in Lake Nona.

While much of the Lake Baldwin clinic will remain open as a branch, the nursing home itself closed more than two years ago. The facility has been used as transitional office, lab and patient treatment space for the clinic.

Mica’s House Resolution 4056 would transfer deed and title to the living center to Florida, which could then redevelop it for its network of veterans nursing homes. Mica, a Winter Park Republican, said Tuesday he expects the bill to pass by unanimous consent in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon and expressed confidence that the U.S. Senate would pass it soon as well.

He said it’s something he has been working on for almost four years.

“I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have the commitments from Sec. [Robert] McDonald and the VA and the committees in the house and the senate,” Mica said.

The federal VA opened a new nursing home at the Lake Nona medical center, but it is full with a waiting list. Mica predicted the old one, if the state takes it over and reopens it, would fill immediately.

Florida, too is on board, though there still are some key details to be worked out, said Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs spokesman Steve Murray.

Florida operates six veterans’ nursing homes and one veterans’ assisted living center. The nearest to Orlando are in Daytona Beach and Land O’ Lakes. Murray said the state lacks a home in the Orlando market, and this would fill that need.

Yet the Lake Baldwin facilities lack kitchen and laundry facilities, much of the equipment is gone and many of the rooms have been converted to other uses. There will be rehab and renovation costs for the state, and operation and maintenance costs, though the federal VA typically pays 65 percent of the operation and maintenance in state-run veterans homes.

“We have been in discussions with the VA and Congressman Mica for some time, discussing the potential for adding this home. Of course, the devil is in the details,” Murray said. “It is something we would like to see happen, but we would have to have both state and federal funding behind it in order to get it up to where it needs to be.”

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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