PERRY POINT — Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford made a Wednesday afternoon stop at the Perry Point VA Medical Center to begin a whirlwind day of appearances in the region, culminating in a summit on Opportunity Zones.
It was Rutherford’s first visit to Perry Point, which serves veterans through outpatient care appointments, specialists and more than 150 beds for long-term care.
Rutherford was shown the outpatient primary care unit as well as one of the facility’s community living centers, where veterans recuperating from procedures or in need of extended services stay.
He inquired about the increase in female veterans seeking services from the VA, and Perry Point officials showed him a former hospice wing that was in the midst of being transformed into a women’s wing for assisted living.
Rutherford also asked about the percentage of the inpatient population there due to dementia and Dr. Abisola Mesioye, director of geriatrics and extended care clinical centers for VA Maryland, estimated that about 70% of Perry Point’s inpatients had some form of dementia.
Jonathan Eckman, associate director of finance for VA Maryland, also shared with Rutherford plans to construct a new consolidated community living center near the facility’s waterfront. Currently the inpatient and hospice units are spread out over three different buildings on the century-old campus.
By consolidating the operations into one facility, it would aid in the VA’s ability to serve long-term care patients while also freeing up current space for other primary care offerings, Eckman said.
The plans for that facility have long been in the pipeline as one of 10 priority construction projects for the national VA system, but have been delayed by bids that have come in over budget, Eckman said. Completion of the project is still several years away, but the VA has hopes that the next round of bidding may meet funding allocations, he added.
After finishing his tour, Rutherford called the facility a “wonderful location and a great campus.”
“Thank you so much for doing your work to care for our heroes,” he said.
With a day filled with stops in Havre de Grace before the economic development summit, Rutherford told the Whig that it was important to recognize the service of veterans and do more to show our appreciation. He touted the Hogan administration’s efforts to try to fully exempt veterans’ military pensions from state income tax after passing first step legislation in the General Assembly.
“I was just at the Army Alliance in Aberdeen and that was one of the big issues that veterans were talking about,” he said. “They look at Pennsylvania and other places where their pensions aren’t taxed and it is a part of the decision they make.”
Rutherford explained that Maryland wants to keep military retirees in the state because they have particular skills and they often retire at 55 or younger, with career years of their lives still ahead.
Many of them will start a business and if they locate in an Opportunity Zone, or a designated area with some economic challenge, they get additional tax credits, he said. Some of them may also be selling back to the military and with that come certain veteran-preference opportunities for such purchases.
“We have those situations now where a Marylander retires and they move to Pennsylvania or Virginia because of the tax treatment, even though they’re still doing business in Maryland,” he said. “We tell our legislators that you don’t have to live here to do business here, but we don’t get the full benefit if they’re not here.”