Ken served in the Air Force for 20 years. After retirement, he had a stroke. Ken’s wife Maria joined us to talk about their struggles to stay together in their home despite Ken’s need for around-the-clock care, and about the VA program that made this possible.

Maria, at the time of the stroke, was Ken signed up for VA health care?

We were in the VA system but he wasn’t seeing them on a regular basis. We thought he had the flu but he wasn’t recovering quite well, so we went to VA. And they said do you know you had a stroke?

Tell us about the period of time when you felt alone, dealing with all this 

We thought we had all of our ducks in a row – what we were going to do when we were going to retire. And within a day of him having the stroke, everything changed. Our life turned upside down. Ken went from walking to fully in a wheelchair.

What was a typical day like for you?

I was working full time, and when I was at work, I’d worry. Is he okay? Was he able to eat? Did he fall? And sometimes he wasn’t okay. Sometimes he had a fall, and he was waiting for me to come home. He didn’t want to call. When people told us, you know, you need to start thinking about putting him in a nursing home, we just weren’t ready for that. We were ready to lose our house just for me to be able to stay at home and to stay together.

And then Mara, his VA primary care nurse, said, “Hey, there’s this program.” They were the ones who told us about the Veteran’s Directed Home and Community Based Care program. We were just like, are you kidding us? There’s really a program like this? And they said, we’re just starting it up. We’d like to sign you up. We think you’re a good fit. We think it would make a change. And it did.

What is Veterans Directed Home and Community Based Care?

The Veterans Directed Home and Community Based program aims at making the Veteran more independent with his choices. And this gives us funds, where he can pay me as his employee.

How did that change your situation?

It made a great change. It was like someone switching a switch. And we went from just surviving. We were on fumes, I mean burning the candle at both ends for so many years, trying to stay together. And when we got in the program and they made it so very easy for us.

I was able to stay at home. And he was able to have his wife back. And I was able to have my husband back. We’re able to dream again. We have plans. Ken is writing his own book about his experience with Parkinson’s Disease and he is painting.

We never thought that this was possible again. We thought that part of our life was over, that it was going to be just a trip to the end. It’s like there was a ship that sunk. And we were thrown a lifesaver. And we would like other Veterans to be able to get their lifesaver, too.

Listen to Ken and Maria’s Story here and share it on social media.

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Bronwyn Emmet is a public affairs specialist for the National Veterans Outreach Office.

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Published on Apr. 15, 2021

Estimated reading time is 3 min.

Views to date: 337


  1. Paul Silva April 29, 2021 at 11:19 am

    I thought I was the only vet that thought that way. These so-called professionals use us for their own personal gain and treat us, like you said, just a number. Thanks and take care.

  2. Hayden French April 27, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    I am a USAF veteran and i get my healthcare through the VA in Northport and East Meadow NY. The service is EXCELLENT! EXCELLENT! EXCELLENT! The providers are all and always courteous and respectful. To all the staff of these facilities “thank you all for YOUR service” and God bless you

  3. Rodney King April 17, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    The VA staff seek anonymity even in this article. My experience has been horrible these last few months. They are not subject to Hippa, ADA, or any other law passed by a U.S. Congress. Even the staff at my Senators office could not help. Know what a congressional inquiry is? It simply means you cut in line when your complaint is forwarded to the patient advocate by the senate staff. Nothing more. This is why the VA “contributor” is writing anonymous articles like this. This is nothing but a promotional campaign that would not be needed if ethical care were being practiced. I am not even allowed to contact my healthcare providers in writing now, in my opinion because their responses were to incriminating.

    [Editor: The writer’s byline is listed at the bottom of the blog post copy, in italics.]

  4. David Siri April 17, 2021 at 11:29 am

    I signed up for VA Healthcare in 2000 and have been very happy with the care I receive. The Portland Oregon VA Hospital is connected with Oregon’s leading medical school and training facility, called OHSU (Oregon Health Science University), and I believe several of the VA doctors get their training there. I also receive care at a VA clinic that is near by, so it’s very convenient for my Primary care.

  5. Marquel Atkins April 16, 2021 at 6:05 pm

    I am a 100% service-connected disabled veteran, and the care at American Lake VA and Dental here in Tacoma WA is at an all time low. This VA needs to be reported in hopes of sparking an investigation. The Doctors and Nurse Practitioners only want to do calls, not even FaceTime or zoom. The place (Tri-west) tasked with setting up your appointments outside of the VA literally dodges you, even when you have your authorization number to proceed. Now Dental is just as bad if not worse, they will send you appointment reminders to call and make an appointment…to only make you leave a message and not return your call. It’s ridiculous!

  6. Steven l crawford April 16, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    Good and poor service, depending upon location and/specialty. 21st Century merge of records/data access is problematic.
    Everyone is eager and professional – but, support staff/technology is a problem.

  7. Donald A Still April 16, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    Agree, the lack of continuity of care and providers that don’t have relationships with their patients, all VA hospitals are teaching hospitals that seem to simply be stepping stones for the resident doctors to move on to private practice. The administration and all clerical staff are dismissive, disrespectful and aloof. No standards of customer service and client care, Veterans are simply numbers to process not human beings that have sacrificed for their country and deserve extraordinary treatment and care. The Administrators do not listen to input from their Physician’s and Dentists on ways to improve and advance care of the Veterans entrusted to their care! Simple Bean counters that pinch pennies to earn bonuses and don’t have any empathy for any of their employees or patients.

  8. Patrick Lee Lanigan April 16, 2021 at 11:49 am

    For me the va has and is a blessing. If not for the VA I might be living in a tent. Thank you VA.

  9. Frank Waugh April 16, 2021 at 10:39 am

    I know how you is an ongoing never-ending night mare.they call cancel my appts. Then send a letter stating I missed my them and they have no record of cancelling my appt.I’m hung up on all the time.
    They will not recognize that I am a Camp Lejeune Veteran, I have to constantly fight with them over’s to the point that I just don’t care any more.just a bunch of buffoons and clowns.

    • Joe Rowland April 16, 2021 at 8:55 pm

      Don’t give up that’s just whut thay want

  10. Michael Gray April 16, 2021 at 10:36 am

    I’m a retired soldier and get first class care from the VA. Naturally, that’s a result of many factors, such as which people provide your care and how you interact with them, and what health problems you have. When I needed foot surgery, my wife was there throughout the process and came away super impressed. Be a good advocate for yourself and return the gratitude to the nurses, staff, and doctors at the VA clinics.

    • Rebecca Gaudreau April 16, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Amen Michal Grey. I can speak first hand…my experiences with the VA have been nothing but extraordinary!

  11. Paul Glova April 16, 2021 at 8:31 am

    I’m a veteran, I can only afford to get my healthcare from the VA, I get the worst care in the entire world!!
    I know what good healthcare is because I was a registered nurse for 20 years. The VA has miles to go before they will be any good.

    • Joe Rowland April 16, 2021 at 9:03 pm

      Yes Sir va is the worst medical treatment in the world
      You would get better care in a 3 world country
      32 years I have been gating care at va n never again
      I ruther die than ever go back

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