Home Sweet Veterans Home

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

Earlier this year we were introduced to a group of volunteers who want to ensure that veterans from the Memphis area have access to the services of a Veterans Home that is close to their family, friends and community.

They founded The West Tennessee Veterans Home Inc. and their mission is straightforward: to obtain the local resources necessary to build a State Veterans Home to serve the 75,000 veterans in Fayette, Shelby and Tipton counties. They are an all-volunteer organization of active and retired military and business and community leaders who have joined together to advocate for the building of a 144-bed State Veterans Home to provide highly skilled nursing and rehabilitative care for local veterans. They invite everyone who agrees to help make this project a reality.

Here’s what we learned. Our community has the largest concentration of veterans in the state. Today’s warriors are tomorrow’s veterans. They are returning home with devastating injuries and disabilities. They need specialized short- and long-term care to recover. Our older veterans (40 percent of local veterans) increasingly need skilled nursing home care as they age. Veterans who are cared for at a state veterans home receive about $100 per day towards the cost of their care. This benefit is awarded to them for their service and cannot be used at a private nursing home. Those veterans who need full-time, year-round care lose over $35,000 in annual benefits because we do not have a state veterans home.

We talked with Edwin J. Wallin, a member of the West Tennessee Veterans Home board. He is a Vietnam veteran and a licensed clinical psychiatric social worker who works with veterans. He shared with us that when he returned home he swore to dedicate the rest of his life serving veterans. “If we get this built, this will fulfill all my hopes and dreams.” He is joined by a team of equally dedicated board members and volunteers committed to our veterans.

The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs has determined there is a need for an additional 891 beds within the state veterans home system. Clarksville and Cleveland, Tenn., have both raised the necessary local funds and are ready to submit applications for federal funding. Shelby, Tipton and Fayette counties want to be next.

Here’s the good news: Once our local community identifies a 25-acre debt-free property and raises 35 percent of the projected costs, the federal government will allocate the remaining 65 percent. There’s much to be done and you can make a difference. Contact your state legislators, congress members and senators. Let them know you care. And listen closely to your favorite Clear Channel Radio station for public service announcements that share more information about why West Tennessee needs a state veterans care home. Our 75,000 veterans depend on us.

Visit www.veterans-home.com or call board chair Holly Swogger at 258-3486 for more information.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “The Fundraisers Guide to Soliciting Gifts” now available at Amazon.com.