Help for a veteran

Woman trying to care for her father has trouble with VA services

Ronda Wasson stands next to her father, William Davis, while holding stacks of some of the paperwork she's collected over the past two years while trying to get him into a Veteran Affairs residence.

Ronda Wasson stands next to her father, William Davis, while holding stacks of some of the paperwork she's collected over the past two years while trying to get him into a Veteran Affairs residence.

Photo by Tom Gascoyne

While national attention has gripped the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently over delays in treatment and services, a Chico woman reports she has also run into obstacles with the VA while trying to care for her 90-year-old father.

Ronda Wasson said her father, World War II vet William Davis, suffers from a number of ailments including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. He’s unable to sign his name on the paperwork associated with VA services, which has led to some difficulties getting him care.

For the past two years, Wasson has been working with the VA to try to move her father into a recognized veterans assisted-living facility, the closest of which until recently was in Martinez. All of the local nursing homes in the area that accept Medicare are full, she said, and private facilities are too expensive.

“Trying to get my father in a decent place to spend the rest of his days has been difficult,” she said. “One refers me to another, which refers me to another, and so on. Most are private pay, which he cannot afford.”

Within the last year the Veterans Home of California-Redding has been built, but its skilled-nursing facility, which her father needs, will not be ready until the end of June. About a month ago, Wasson began working with the Butte County Veterans Service Office to try to get approval of a VA pension that would help get her father into the Redding facility.

“They haven’t gone through all of their final inspections for that particular [skilled-nursing] section and he doesn’t qualify for any other section in that facility,” she said. “My fear is they are going to fill it up before they finalize all the paperwork that I’ve been going back and forth on with them.”

Wasson said she has power of attorney for her father, but that the Butte County Veterans Service Office has not recognized it. That office is not part of the federal VA, but was established by the Butte County Board of Supervisors to help veterans, their dependents and survivors obtain veterans’ benefits from federal, state and local agencies.

Wasson said representatives there have asked her to track down an original copy of her father’s Army discharge papers because the microfiche printout she has does not qualify. The papers would help her father qualify for the Aid & Attendance Act pension, which in her father’s case will amount to $1,700 a month to pay for his stay at the Redding facility.

But the local Veterans Service Office is overwhelmed with clients and progress has been slow going. Wasson voiced frustrations about working with the office, but added that there has been some movement in the past week.

Wasson can no longer care for her father, who has lived with her and her husband and son for the last six years. Her north Chico house is in short-sale and she and her husband will soon have to move to a smaller place, which will not have a room for her dad. Wasson’s husband is a truck driver and is often on the road. Her 26-year-old son has helped her care for her father, but is moving into his own place soon.

“While my son helps me with [my father’s] care, his needs have become more and more difficult to handle on an in-home-care basis,” she said. “The Redding VA home most recently asked me to update all his paperwork, which they’ve had since January. Doing this requires more appointments with his primary doctor, blood work, TB tests, phone calls and so forth.”

She said getting the Aid & Attendance Act pension has not been an easy venture. She attended a seminar put on by the county Veterans Service Office on May 12 to try to find out more information, but learned little if anything, she said.

When contacted about Wasson’s situation with her father, Hannah Williamson, who works in the local Veterans Service Office, said the work there can be overwhelming.

“I know we’ve had some computer upgrades and our office specialist was inundated with walk-ins,” she explained. “I can assure you that my veteran service representative gives out instruction exactly as the VA demands with its rules and regulations. I’m saddened that this particular person didn’t feel like they could call me if there was confusion. We do work within strict guidelines of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Williamson said there are only three workers in the department and that all are disabled veterans themselves.

“We work very long hours in our office to help every single veteran, their dependents and widows as much as possible,” Williamson said. “We saw 402 veterans in April and that was in a total of 22 working days. There are three of us here. If you do the math, you can understand the pressure and the enormous case load we are under.

“We’re all disabled veterans here, so we have a personal passion and dedication to help every veteran. It’s the guidelines of the Department of Veterans Affairs that restrict our abilities to work more easily and conveniently with claimants and their veterans.”

Wasson said Williamson called her after the CN&R had contacted the Veterans Service Office.

“She sent me some stuff to fill out and told me if my dad put his ‘X’ on his paperwork, I could then have two witnesses sign a paper that confirmed he put his ‘X’ there,” she said.

Now she and her son serve as the two witnesses to validate his mark. As for her dad’s military discharge papers, Wasson has learned that there is another form she can fill out to get proof of discharge.

“I don’t know how long it will take to get the documentation back, but it has to be at least an original or a certified copy,” she said. “They will not take what I have. This county thing has been really difficult to get through.”

Just before CN&R’s press time, Wasson and Williamson met in person to try to finish the needed paperwork to get the discharge papers for the Aid & Attendance Act pension to help get Wasson’s father ready for the Redding facility.

“It went pretty well,” Wasson said. “Meeting with her in person was much better. She made a phone call to find out the best way to get the discharge papers. The woman is a fireball. Things are beginning to fall into place and I’ll probably get the papers in a couple of weeks. She said if I don’t to let her know.”