Veteran Affairs has program for elderly vets - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

Veteran Affairs has program for elderly vets

HARKER HEIGHTS, TX (KXXV) -

There are hundreds of elderly veterans who need help in central Texas.

But Veteran's Affairs has a program to help veterans who don't want to go to a nursing home. VA organizes medical foster homes giving a few veterans medical care and a place to call home. 

"We want them to feel like they are a part of their community and like what they have to offer still matters," medical foster home coordinator Tiffany Love.  "Even though they may have some health issues, they may need a little extra care, our veterans are our utmost priority."

Love helped organize the first central Texas foster home in Harker Heights.  The first person moved in mid January, and the third and final veteran moved in Thursday.   The home also has three care givers who provide medical needs, cook food and help them go through their daily lives.

"Just anything that they need, that's what we're here for, to help," Pati Gonzalez-Thomas said. 

Gonzalez-Thomas is a caregiver and also rents the home.  Veterans pay her around $1,800 a month for expenses, but she says it's not for the money. 

"The concept was the fact that you rent a house and you have a family, why not take care of somebody, why not share it," Gonzalez-Thomas said. 

Gonzalez-Thomas says she is somewhat of a manager, another caregiver mainly gives medical care, and the third person cooks.  Vietnam navy veteran Virginia Hernandez moved into the Harker Heights home in mid January. She says the cooking has been really good. 

"I'm just at peace, I'm at peace with myself," Hernandez said.

Hernandez says she couldn't live by herself anymore after going through breast cancer and diabetes. 

"I couldn't live by myself, and then I lived with my family for a while and then I wanted to live by myself but I couldn't do it," Hernandez said. 

Hernandez says she gets pension benefits from Veteran Affairs and has her "rent" paid for.  Tiffany Love says they try to help out anyone who cannot pay to stay in one of their homes. She also says if a veteran was hurt in combat, then they can stay for free. 

Currently there are only a few homes in Texas.  Love says she's talked with around 33 veterans who are interested.  However, there is somewhat of a shortage of qualified caregivers. 

Love says there are homes in Smithville, Hewitt, Dallas and San Antonio.  Nationwide there are 84 foster home programs providing services for more than 1,700 veterans since 2000. 

Love says in the Hewitt home, a 92 year old man is in the program with a mother and her children.  Love says before living there the man was living without electricity and eating mostly canned food.  Currently he has food provided and the children call him grandpa. 

Veteran Affairs also makes sure each home is up to fire safety code.  The Harker Heights home has an alarm system, fire extinguishers, ramps and posted fire exits. 

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