VA, Independent Living teaming up for veteran-directed care in 8 WNY counties

Posted 14 May 2024 at 9:59 am

Focus will be to reach underserved rural parts of region

Press Release, WNY Independent Living

BATAVIA – A partner of the Veterans Administration Medical Centers (VAMC) in Buffalo and Batavia, Western New York Independent Living, Inc. received the sole contract for Veteran Directed Care (VDC) with the VA.

While the Veteran Directed Care model is new to WNY, it has demonstrated success in self-directed care by veterans across the nation. VA Medical Centers partner with non-profit Independent Living Centers to empower Veterans to employ their own aides (often already being provided by family members).

WNY Independent Living CEO, Douglas Usiak shares, “As an aging service-connected disabled veteran myself, I am excited to know that my brother and sister veterans will have the comfort to direct their own homecare needs and remain in their home of choice as long as possible.

“A secondary satisfaction to being involved in the launch of this program is the opportunity to work with the VAMC in the capacity of a partner, and not just one of their consumers of services,” Usiak said. “This partnership gives me the opportunity to advance my lifelong passion of promoting the Independent Living philosophy that believes that we all have a right to live in our homes, work in our communities, and engage in society as a person with a disability.”

A focus of this program is to reach the underserved rural parts of WNY where veterans face provider shortages, geographic and distance barriers, limited broadband coverage which impairs their ability to participate in telehealth, and social determinants of health relative to rural living experiences (i.e., access to transportation, employment).

To ensure a trust-built rapport with veterans, WNY Independent Living has employed another Army veteran, Thomas Patterson, to serve in the Person-Centered Counsellor role and interface directly with the veterans in assessing their needs in their homes and communities.

Veterans and Patterson will work together to build a spending plan to identify costs for their personal assistants and obtain any additional goods and services the veteran requires to improve quality of life in their home and community.

The power of this Veteran Directed Care program can be recognized in the experiences of the individual veterans who are participating in VDC.  For example, a 94-year-old veteran who functions independently in his own home and wants to remain there with some additional oversight for specific household tasks and community access – like going to the library for a new mystery novel – has employed his daughter-in-law for these functions.

Another veteran depends on his granddaughter for activities of daily living and then she needs to go to her job in the community to support herself. Being able to be paid to continue the care she already provides to her “Poppy” will improve the quality of life for both. One thing is certain: their stories are being heard.

Crucial to WNY Independent Living’s successful launch as a VDC program, VDC Director Julie Andrews Krieger expresses gratitude for the mentorship of the other providers in the VDC community, including the Independent Living Center of Hudson Valley and VA Medical Center in Albany.

WNY Independent Living will support veterans across the wider WNY region in Niagara, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany counties. We are proud to serve the veterans in our community.

To qualify for this program, a Veteran must request Veteran Directed Care from their VA physician and Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) at the local VA Medical Center or VA Clinic and an assessment is completed and referral made to the VDC program.

The Western New York Independent Living, Inc. family of agencies offer an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.