Reported by: CNN's Casey Wian
Military veterans have two new state-of-the-art nursing homes in California, one in Fresno and one in Redding.
The homes sit vacant because of California's massive budget shortfall.
In the meantime, the state is spending a fortune maintaining the empty buildings.
CNN's Casey Wian went to see the problem for himself.
89-year-old World War II veteran Rudi Giannoni was shot down over Germany. He spent 11 brutal months as a prisoner of war. Now, HE wants a safe place to spend his remaining days near family in Fresno, California, where a brand new 300 bedroom veterans home was completed in April, but it sits empty because of California's budget crisis. It will stay that way at least until October 2013.
In the meantime, hundreds of veterans wait to get in. "There are veterans out there that are in a lot worse shape than I'm in that should be going into that home right now," said Giannoni.
The home cost $159 million to build, split roughly 60/40 between the federal government and California. $159 million will buy you a very nice facility. There's a general store, but there's nothing on the shelves. Next door is a barber shop where no one's cutting hair, and next to that is a bank with no money in it, just like the State of California.
There are also no residents in the facility and won't be any this year. The state only budgeted enough money for a skeleton maintenance crew and a handful of staff at Fresno.
J.P. Tremblay with the California Department of Veterans Affairs said, "Believe me, the administration and the legislature understands their frustrations, but understand too though that what the legislature and governor were dealing with was a $16 billion deficit."
State officials say regulatory hurdles are part of the problem. The veterans home in West LA was completed two years ago. Steve Rosmarin and Millie Taylor are two of the 84 veterans living in the facility, but 300 rooms sit empty. "I consider this the Waldorf Astoria," said Rosmarin. "I think it's too bad, because there's a lot of waste in the government," said Taylor.
J.P. Tremblay said, "These are not like hotels, you don't open up the doors and fill them with them residents. These are long-term care health care facilities that require specific equipment, specifically trained and specially trained professionals."
Korean War veteran and activist Charlie Waters of Fresno said, "You have to hire people, you have to train people... Hell, that story gets old after a while."
Waters has been pushing for the Fresno home for 11 years. "They don't give a damn. If they did, they'd take care of their people," said Waters.