National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)
One Texas Veteran has basked in the media spotlight recently for his positive experience with a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pilot program. Ninety-two-year-old Gerald Bennett lives alone in San Antonio. His wife died several years ago and his children moved elsewhere around the country.
Mr. Bennett shared with reporters that he feels more connected and less at risk for depression thanks to regular visits and phone calls with VA volunteer Gloria Estrello. “If it gets a little lonely, if I feel like I’m getting depressed,” said Mr. Bennett in the Texas Public Radio interview, “I’ll give Gloria a call. We’ll talk.”
Ms. Estrello is part of the Choose Home Senior Corps, a collaboration between VA and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that kicked off in May 2019. The Corps is a network of aged-55-and-older volunteers who support VA’s Choose Home initiative, which enables Veterans at risk of institutionalization to stay in their homes. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Office of Community Engagement (OCE) manages this partnership and supports the Choose Home Initiative.
“She [Gloria] looks out for him pretty well," said Mr. Bennett’s daughter Carol, who now lives in Vermont. "We've had moments where he … needed to go to the emergency room. Gloria's been right there with him. She'll text me and let me know what's going on blow-by-blow."
Volunteers are trained to address Veteran-specific concerns, such as those related to suicidality and other invisible injuries of war, and they help aging Veterans by providing socialization and performing light housekeeping. In some cases, Corps volunteers relieve the Veteran’s caregiver so that they can run errands or engage in self-care. The pilot program is in five areas: San Antonio, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas (Nevada), Pittsburgh, and Missoula (Montana).
“Helping Veterans remain independent and in their home of choice is critical to their health and well-being,” says Dr. Tracy Weistreich, acting director of OCE. “Collaborations such as this one give Veterans a voice and a choice in how and where they receive their care.”
VA facilities interested in partnering with CNCS can contact their CNCS state director. More information about contacting state directors can be found at https://nationalservice.gov/about/contact-us/state-offices.
VA staff members with access to VA Insider can read more about the Choose Home Initiative here: https://vaww.insider.va.gov/choose-home-initiative-helps-at-risk-veterans-receive-comprehensive-coordinated-care-at-home/
OCE is committed to helping establish across VHA effective partnerships like this one. For more on OCE’s work, please visit https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/index.asp.
Posted February 6, 2020