COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Some veterans got the notice in the mail last week. An in-home service they rely on, through the Department of Veterans Affairs, will end next month.
The Veterans Directed Care Program through Dorn VA in Columbia will end on November 17. The service is paid for by Dorn but is operated through the state of South Carolina. It gets help to veterans who are disabled, by paying for people to assist them with basic needs in the home like getting out of bed in the morning, getting bathed and dressed, and preparing meals.
Dorn says letters of notice of the program's end went out to 75 people. Several of them gathered inside of a Chapin couple's home on Wednesday.
"You okay?" Kitty Heim asked her husband and veteran, Doug Heim. "Yeah," the 86-year-old quietly replied. Kitty and Doug hosted about two dozen people affected by the end of the program.
In the living room full of veterans, one common theme is service to the country. Another, unfortunate circumstance that brings them today now, is the problem they share. They hope to change minds at the VA and have the Veterans Directed Home Based Program extended.
Without it, they fear a nursing home lies ahead, or more expensive out-of-pocket home help.
"They don't want to go to a nursing home. I don't want to go to a nursing home to visit him every day," Kitty Heim says.
"It was a shock to receive something like this when things are going on," 87-year-old Maurice Hudson said, holding the notice in hand.
Hudson, who served in the Air Force, has written to the VA and lawmakers to keep his home help. He calls the aid family members since he lives alone with his wife and daughters died from cancer.
"There's a lot to being in your home if it's the only place you hang your hat every day," Hudson says.
Kristi Driggers, retired Army, is also reaching out for the VA to reconsider.
"All I'm asking for is to be taken care now that I've got ALS," Driggers says.
Driggers fears accidents will happen to those left without care, without this program.
"That's what's going to happen to the 58 veterans who are affected. I'm not the only one. We all I think are all proud veterans. I don't think anyone in here wouldn't serve again if we were asked," Driggers says.
The VA says there are still some other in-home services available for veterans. A spokesperson says those programs include the Home Maker/Home Health Aide Program, the Home Based Primary Care Program, and other in-patient and out-patient services.
However, veterans believe these may not be enough; they say there are criteria necessary to participate in certain programs, not all meet, and that some services don't provide the same level of around the clock assistance.
When asked why the program was cut, spokesperson David Omura said: "There could be gr ant funding allocated through the state and there was initial funding to help support this program; however, we realize that all organizations are making budget decisions that need to be balanced thoughtfully. If support could be obtained through this avenue, I am confident that it would have been obtained already through our colleagues at the Lieutenant Governor's Office."
The VA's spokesperson adds that a reason for ceasing the program is funding, "funds through the Dorn VA will cease for this program in under 30 days, there has been communication with the State of South Carolina's Lieutenant Governor's office to gradually manage the program over the next few months as they partner directly with these Veterans."
The VA says it's possibly the program is restarted in the fiscal years following this year if funding is allocated then.
WIS reached out to the Lieutenant Governor's Office. Chief of Staff at the Office of Aging, Darryl Broom, says that the funding for the program was given to the VA; Broom says his office was not aware the program was to be discontinued for the year until the notice was already sent out to patients.