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I recently visited Bay Aging in Urbanna, Virginia, to learn more about their current work and receive an update on their Veteran Directed Care (VDC) program. I met with personnel from Bay Aging, veterans enrolled in the VDC program, and staff from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.
Bay Aging, one of Virginia’s Area Agencies on Aging, has been helping older adults and people with disabilities by providing a long list of services for more than forty years. Some of their programs have even spread into nearby states and Washington, D.C. The number of people they serve has steadily grown to over 26,000, and their VDC program has seen an impressive 34 percent increase since I last visited in 2017.
The VDC program was developed by the Veterans Health Administration and the Administration for Community Living to offer veterans and their caregivers greater access, choice and control over the long-term services and supports that help veterans live at home and remain a part of their communities. As I listened to veterans and their families describe their experiences with Bay Aging’s VDC program, it was clear that the program is meeting crucial human needs.
Veterans in the VDC program have significant disabilities; each is eligible for nursing home-level care. However, VDC provides a community-based alternative that allows them to live and receive care in their own homes. If an eligible veteran chooses VDC, he or she has access to a flexible budget that can be used to fund a care plan that best fits their life, including hiring family, friends and neighbors to provide individualized support to help meet their needs. Counselors from organizations in the aging and disability networks, such as Bay Aging, support the veteran in a variety of ways, including providing financial management assistance to the veteran as they develop their service plan, find and train workers, and secure needed goods and services. The veterans I met emphasized that when they needed help or advice, staff at Bay Aging answered the phone or quickly returned their calls.