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Missouri Veterans Commission awarded grant to boost staffing

St. Joseph News-Press - 3/24/2023

Mar. 23—Many veterans in Missouri are waiting for a spot in a state retirement home due to staffing shortages, but thanks to a federal grant, the Missouri Veterans Commission is looking forward to the chance to bring in new residents.

"This is something that we needed very badly," said Paul Kirchhoff, executive director of the Missouri Veterans Commission. "Staffing throughout the homes is critical, just like it is in private industry. We're fighting for those finite amount of resources, which is the staff to take care of our veterans. If we don't have the staff to take care of our veterans, we can't admit veterans in their homes."

The Missouri Veterans Commission has homes located throughout Missouri in Cameron, Cape Girardeau, Mexico, Mount Vernon, St. James, St. Louis and Warrensburg. The homes manage a total of 1,238 beds.

The grant money from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a one-time differential of $920.42 that will be paid to full-time senior support care assistants and support care assistants hired between March 1 and July 1.

"It provides an incentive," Kirchhoff said. "We can't give bonuses or things like that, like a lot of the private homes can. Due to this, and the raises that the governor and the Legislature have approved for state employees, we are increasing our staffing levels, which means we can bring more veterans into our facilities as well."

Chris Leach has worked as a CNA at the Missouri Veterans Home in Cameron since August. He said he hopes this grant will inspire more people to join nursing.

"I think that this will give more people incentives to consider this as a career option," Leach said. "It really helps me a lot. I plan on using it for my student loans because shortly after I started here, I actually joined the nursing program at Missouri Western."

Crystal Stephens, another CNA at the Missouri Veterans Home in Cameron, has worked at the facility for nearly five years. She said the money will help alleviate some stress of living paycheck to paycheck.

"It was just exciting and I thought that it was very nice for them to look at CNAs and CMTs and reward us," Stephen said. "It's going to help me pay my bills. It's just an extra lump. It seems like you go check the check and so this gives you a little extra money."

According to the Missouri Veterans Commission, in the fiscal year 2022, MVC had a 55.2% vacancy rate for support care assistants and a 32% vacancy rate for senior support care assistants. In this same period, MVC saw a 104.8% turnover in support care assistants and 49.8% in senior support care assistants statewide.

"Currently, we're approximately 54% in, and the number of staff CNA positions filled," Kirchhoff said. "Of course, that makes it so that we're at approximately 50% on the number of veterans within our homes as well."

Kirchhoff said he thinks the staffing issues are after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're always working to fill positions but COVID drove a lot of people away from working in general and working in the medical field," Kirchhoff said. "We're still recovering some from of the effects that that COVID had on the medical industry."

CNA Tricia Johnson, who has worked at the Missouri Veterans Home in Cameron since October, said it is difficult to find people that have the heart for what this job requires.

"It's an honor to work with all of them and get to know them," Johnson said. "I tell myself every day, I don't want to get too attached to them because you never know when you're going to lose one of them, but it's hard not to get attached to them. They are sweet."

While this grant money will help combat staffing issues, it will also help open up more beds for veterans.

"We're increasing our staffing, so we'll be able to increase our veterans' census and we're opening up wings in our homes that had been closed for quite a while," Kirchhoff said. "It's good to see that some of those previously vacant positions and vacant areas of our home are now filling up with staff and veterans."

For anyone interested in applying for a job at the Missouri Veterans Home, visit

Sara Rooney can be reached at


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