140 Valley veterans lose home care services, put on wait list

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Someone comes to Jim Bibik's home in Surprise three times a week for an hour to help him with bathing and general housekeeping. But Thursday, he got a call that that's going away. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Someone comes to Jim Bibik's home in Surprise three times a week for an hour to help him with bathing and general housekeeping. But Thursday, he got a call that that's going away. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
SURPRISE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

In the Phoenix metro area, 140 veterans are being denied services as part of the "Homemaker and Home Health Aide Care" program. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is moving those funds to higher-priority patients.

Someone comes to Jim Bibik's home in Surprise three times a week for an hour to help him with bathing and general housekeeping. But Thursday, he got a call that that's going away.

Bibik was a painter and designer for 40 years. Before that, he served his country.

"A lot of pride and then you find out about the brotherhood," Bibik said, speaking of what he thinks of when he thinks of his time in the Army.

Bibik's painting days are now behind him because of a multitude of medical issues.

"I have COPD, Parkinson's, I have MDS, which is a blood cancer," Bibik said.

He looks forward to the visits he gets thanks to the VA's Homemaker and Home Health Aid Care Program.

"To aid you with the showers if you can't dress, or buttoning your clothes," he said.

And it is a huge help for Bibik and his wife.

"We depend on it, of course," said Bibik.

"It's not just load of laundry or made bed, it's a friend here, emotional support," said Bibik's wife, Vlasta Domin.

But Thursday, Bibik got a call saying that service was being put on hold.

"I said, 'Why me?' She said, 'It's not just you,'" Bibik said.

The Phoenix VA tells us this was a hard decision, but they were spending more in this program than originally expected and they have to redistribute the money to veterans with a higher medical priority. They're keeping the 5,000 veterans with a clinical need in the program, but 140 other Phoenix-metro area veterans, like Bibik, are being put on a waiting list. 

"It's horrible for somebody to go through, thinking they're going to lose that service when we depend on it so much," Bibik said.

The Phoenix VA said they'll take another look at this in October when they see the next fiscal year's budget. They sent us a full statement saying:

The Phoenix VA Health Care System continues to strive to provide optimal care for all Veterans.  It is never easy to stop providing a particular service that Veterans have come to appreciate and value.  Because the Phoenix VA has found the Choice program to be extremely important in helping us to provide care and services to Veterans, we have used Choice dollars at an extremely high rate.  When VA Secretary Dr. Shulkin testified to  the Senate, he indicated that money in the Choice program fund was being spent at a faster rate than expected, and that funds may run out in that program before the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30, 2017.   Dr. Shulkin asked Congress for authority to move money to cover the funding gaps to ensure Veteran medical appointments aren’t disrupted while VA officials work on an update of the Choice program.

We want to assure Veterans that the Phoenix VA Health Care System will continue to provide care through the Choice-30 and Choice-40 program. The first is for Veterans who would have to wait for more than 30 days for an appointment at our facility, and the second is for those who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.   We had been using a special provision of Choice, called "Provider Agreements," to fund Homemaker/Home Health Aid programs in the community. We have had to  prioritize funding for these services to those who need medical care or skilled nursing care. We do have some Veterans with less intense home care needs that we have placed on a waiting list for homemaker/home health aide services. We are keeping track of those Veterans and following national guidance.

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

Click to learn more about Lindsey

Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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