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A veteran-to-veteran storytelling project designed to let Miami Valley veterans describe their own experiences, in their own words with a special focus on stories of re-entry into civilian life.

VA Program Provides Foster Care For Veterans

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Jerry Kenney
Jean McGee and Alan Hansbarger

A medical foster care program for veterans is growing here in the Miami Valley. This year there were 120 VA’s participating. That means 900 Veterans found homes around the country.

One VA foster care site in Springfield, Ohio is the home of Alan Hansbarger. He was born in Canton, Ohio in 1923. A year later he moved to the western edge of the state, where he grew up with his mom and his older brother.

After growing up through the school system in Ansonia, Ohio, Alan and his brother entered the service, although under different circumstances, according to the ninety-four year old veteran.

“He enlisted and became a pilot, and I was drafted. I made em come after me,” he jokes.

Alan was drafted at 19 and served in the Air Force through the end of World War II. He never married and was living alone up until 2013—when he really started to need day-to-day help. That’s when he came to live with Jean McGee. 

Alan says “[Jean’s] my right hand and left hand, keeps me out of trouble, helps me keep things going straight—of which I need at times because I get frustrated. And it’s certainly nice to have someone walking alongside and helping stand steady.”

After her husband became ill, the garage of McGee's home was converted into two handicap accessible bedrooms. The VA foster program Veterans placed in any home to three, and Mcgee says she would have room for one more if they made a good fit for her and A
Jerry Kenney

Jean McGee joined the VA Medical Care Foster Program after her husband Mark, a Navy Veteran, died after complications from dementia. She had worked as a nurse for more than 30 years, and her home’s garage had already been converted into two handicap accessible bedrooms. So she decided this was something she could do to honor her husband’s memory. And she already knew Alan—he’s her husband’s cousin.

The caretaker says the decision to take Alan in was made quickly. “He has such a good nature and it was just easy. It was easy for me." And Jean is happy that she can provide care for Alan and that he considers her his "right and left hands."

"Yeah, I was very proud when he said that. I really was, because that’s what I want. I still have that sense of wanting to give service, you know, wanting to care for people. So yeah, that really made me feel proud."

Jean McGee's home is one of two veteran foster homes operating under the Dayton VA’s program. Jessica Holderman is the program coordinator at the Dayton VA and calls the approach a “less restrictive, less costly substitute” for vets.

“They may not have that family support or people around them that can provide the care and support they need," she says, "Or often they may not be willing to consider nursing home placement so this gives them a home-like alternative to make sure they get that care that they need.”

And the program is mutually beneficial. Jean gets a monthly stipend to provide the care, and Alan has a home and companionship, along with his VA benefits which include visits from VA medical staff.

Veterans foster care is likely to grow. The Dayton VA says there are two more homes going through the application process and they hope to have them approved at the start of the new year.