As “the greatest generation” ages, many U.S. military veterans find themselves needing a little more help than they can provide themselves.
For some, like 90-year-old Bob Mohan, a Veterans Administration program that matches vets with willing homeowners to help care for them has been “a wonderful opportunity.”
A Rifle-area couple recently agreed to house and help a military veteran and are awaiting a match.
Melinda Roberts is the coordinator of the Medical Foster Home program for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She said the Rifle couple, who did not want to be identified for this story, contacted her about offering to house a veteran.
“The husband is a Vietnam veteran and comes from a long line of military veterans,” Roberts said.
The couple went through an extensive review process, Roberts noted, including home interviews, inspections and background checks.
“We try to screen the homes and make sure they’re safe and a good fit for a vet,” she said. “It’s up to the individual vet to decide if they want to live there.”
The veterans who take part in the program are elderly and have medical issues that prevent them from living independently, Roberts stated.
The foster care program is new to the Grand Junction VA Center, but has been in existence since the late 1990s, she said. Four homes have been approved on the West Slope, with two accepting veterans.
Jolene Lowe lives outside Delta and decided to join the program after seeing an article in the local newspaper.
“The veterans gave us our freedoms, so we thought if we can give them a home, that pays back a little bit,” Lowe said.
Mohan said Lowe had “bent over backwards” to make him feel at home.
“I’m very introverted by nature,” Mohan said. “I lived out in the country and sometimes wouldn’t see a soul, so this was a big change.”
A hospice nurse told Mohan about the program.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Mohan added. “And it’s about half the cost of an assisted living center. Here, I get to bring my dog, and we do things like go fishing. It’s a real personal thing.”
Lowe has housed Mohan for two months, said Roberts. Veterans pay a small amount to stay in the homes, she added. If they qualify, VA benefits are available to help reduce those costs.
Veterans pay $1,500 to $3,000 a month, based on the level of medical care they need, Roberts said.
Care givers must provide fire extinguishers, know how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation and have first aid cards, Roberts said.
“That’s not really anything more than someone would need to have a foster care child,” Roberts said.
The review process takes about six weeks on average, Roberts said.
“Then we market the home to veterans,” she added. “It’s all about lifestyles and what makes a good fit for both the vet and the home owners.”
After working as a cook at a nursing home, Lowe said she doesn’t like to see this nation’s veterans go to a place “where some people forget them.”
Lowe said Mohan has his dog and his freedom as an independent individual, Lowe said.
“Here, his kids come to visit him and he’s treated like family,” Lowe added.
Mohan is a diabetic and his closest relative lives in California, he said.
“I love this country, and this is just a wonderful opportunity,” Mohan said. “It’s so different. But they take care of me like you wouldn’t believe.”
Roberts said she is seeking other foster homes for vets within a 70-mile radius of Grand Junction. For more information about the program, call Roberts at (970) 263-2854.