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What does your job entail?

My job entails serving as a coach and subject matter expert for Veterans and/or their Representatives to help them enroll and successfully participate in the Veterans Directed Care (VDC) Program. VDC is a special contractual partnership between the Harris County Area Agency on Aging (HCAAA) and the U.S. Veterans Administration. This partnership provides an opportunity for eligible Veterans to self-direct their care in a non-traditional manner. Instead of a top – down delivery of care in which the government provides a contractor to come to the home and provide care for the Veteran in a traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekday work shift, VDC allows the Veterans to hire and schedule their own workers in a manner that works best for the Veteran.

The Veterans or their Representatives orchestrate the delivery of their services under the VDC and HCAAA provides case management and a financial management contractor to do background checks on employees and payroll administration. Each Veteran has a budget that is assigned to a case mix commensurate with their level of need and functionality. This program is growing exponentially, and it is wildly popular. Veterans can hire trusted family members, friends, neighbors, or anyone else as long as they are qualified to do the work and can pass a background check. My job is to do assessment and reassessments and essentially pull this all together and work with my leadership team to make it happen. 

For those seniors who are incapacitated and need assistance, why not advocate for moving them into a care facility?

Veterans want to live at home with their families and continue being a part of the communities that they love. Being institutionalized is the last option that Veterans want.  We are compassionate and always work to serve the best interests of the Veterans. And in most cases, it is not in the best interests of the Veterans to be prematurely institutionalized.

What type of services do you provide for aging veterans?

We actually provide case management and counseling for Veterans and their caregivers. The VA provides more detailed services such as therapeutic counseling, healthcare services, and resources such incontinent supplies, rollers, electric hospital beds, etc. 

You mentioned you yourself are a veteran. What was your branch of service, how many years did you serve and what was your MOS?

I am a proud Veteran of the U.S. Navy. I served 23 years and was a public affairs officer. I retired in 2013 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In 2010, I did a one year war duty tour in Afghanistan. 

You stated, “It’s pretty rewarding to see those who have served our nation honorably get high quality care at home rather than being institutionalized.” Can you add some more context to that statement?

Yes, as I mentioned earlier, Veterans want to spend the remainder of their lives in the company of those that love them and whom they love. Veterans want to live with their families. Most Veterans feel institutionalization is the last option because that would take them away from home and history has shown many tend to get depressed and lose their spirit for life. Some Veterans say that although care is good at institutions, it feels as if they are biding time until the finality of life. Thus, it is not the preferred option, but rather the last line of options for the delivery of healthcare. 

What do you want readers to understand most about the importance of your job?

It is a job that really matters because it is an opportunity to give back to those brave men and women who have sacrificed and served, often to their own peril, to protect this great country of ours. These Veterans are worthy of our respect and the resources necessary to take care of them. It is important that their country show them that it loves them as much as they love it.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I did not ask?

Yes, serving in the military is a tough job. It entails being away from family, friends, loved ones, significant others, and neighbors for protracted periods of time. Just keeping it a buck – or 100% real, some Veterans lose their relationships because the other party gets lonely and the long distance factor becomes insurmountable. Veterans make sacrifices that most Americans do not fully understand. Veterans miss holidays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, family reunions, birthdays, their children’s first steps or first words, funerals, and other important events because sometimes duty or a critical mission simply does not allow them to be there.

By nature of military service, Veterans place themselves in physical jeopardy. But their service is what allows the American people to enjoy the freedoms that we cherish so much not only for ourselves, but our posterity.