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Published: November 10, 2016
Vietnam Veteran Gets Help at Home in Teller County

Vincent Thoms
Vincent Thoms
Vincent Thoms

By Jessica Bolen


Vincent Thoms is a Vietnam veteran who loves the A-frame home he has in Teller County. The home he shared with his late wife has prominent west-facing windows for an unobstructed mountain view. He can tell you when and where you might find the legendary Cripple Creek donkey herd. However, it was starting to look for Vincent like remaining independent in his beloved home was at risk.

A widower who lives alone, Vincent requires the use of oxygen for a heart problem that probably started with exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam. He tires easily and doesn’t have the stamina to handle normal housework.

“It’s hard to admit you need help. For veterans, it is awful hard.” Thoms says, as he looks thoughtfully around the interior of his home.

Vincent received a flyer from The Independence Center notifying him of a new program designed to help veterans remain independent in their own homes as long as possible. The program, entitled Veteran in Charge, serves eligible veterans of any age who need assistance with bathing, dressing, transferring, yardwork, transportation, cooking, medication management, etc. Veteran in Charge is a Veteran Directed – Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS) program. It supplements—not replaces—Veterans Administration (VA) benefits.

“Veteran directed” means that the veteran self-directs (or appoints an authorized representative to direct) his or her own long-term supports and services by managing budget dollars, choosing which services best meet their needs, and hiring and supervising their own attendants. A contracted agency handles background checks and payroll for attendants.

“This program has been key to allowing Vincent to remain right where he wants, in his mountain home as a vital participant within his community,” Ashley Billington, Veteran Coach at the Independence Center, explains. “The best part is Vincent gets to determine how he spends his monthly budget. This is huge because Vincent is the expert on his own needs.”

To other veterans who have not yet asked for help, Thoms advises: “Get on this program. It will help you out because you’ll be able to stay in your own house and you’ll have someone come in and help you out. That means a whole heck of a lot. I lost my wife to cancer, so I am by myself. . . . Don’t be afraid to get help.”

Veterans of any age with a disability who need assistance to remain independent in their home are encouraged to start with their VA contact for an eligibility assessment. Veterans who are interested in the Veteran in Charge program may contact Ashley Billington at The Independence Center at (719) 476-3170.

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