WWII vet sues Hawaii for not allowing his wife to live with him
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — A 95-year-old World War II veteran of the famed Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team is suing the state of Hawaii for not allowing his wife to live with him in his nursing home.
Noboru Kawamoto and his 89-year-old wife, Elaine, filed suit Thursday in federal district court in Hawaii, naming Gov. David Ige and two other state agency heads as defendants.
The lawsuit argues that a Hawaii state law preventing their cohabitation due to Medicaid regulations is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection.
Ige had not yet seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment, said spokesperson Cindy McMillan. The lawsuit will be reviewed by the attorney general, who will advise the governor on the best course of action, she said.
The couple had been in an assisted-living facility on Oahu until August 2014, when a series of infections forced Noboru to be hospitalized for several months, after which he required a high degree of care. Meanwhile, worsening health had forced Elaine into nursing care, according Jeffrey Portnoy, an attorney with Cades Schutte, the law firm representing the couple.
After his hospital stay, Noboru had no option but to enter a community care foster home, which is a type of nursing care facility with two to three beds that provides 24-hour care to resident patients. It was the only nearby nursing facility equipped to take Noboru, Portnoy said.
In many cases, care provided in community care foster homes is paid for by Medicaid, a joint federal-state program that helps pay medical costs for people with very limited means.
Noboru, however, was paying for his own care and not using Medicaid.
But Hawaii law allows only one non-Medicaid resident in a community care foster home, which meant that Elaine — also not using Medicaid — was not allowed to live in the same home.
The couple, married 68 years, have only been able to see each other for brief visits every few weeks, Portnoy said. They’ve not spent a night under the same roof for almost two years, he said.
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