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New law to help rehabilitate veterans

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Home from war with nowhere to go. We're talking about injured veterans who are often sent to nursing homes for rehabilitation.

However, a new law is now offering our military members the chance to live in a medical foster home while they recover.

It helps those veterans who have physical and emotional needs get the specific care they need while in a home setting.

Having your own home is part of the American dream.

A dream that Army veteran William Smith knows all about.

"That's what we're here for," he said. "That's what we fought for, for everybody to have their own piece of this great country."

During his 14 years of service, Smith suffered bone loss from a disease that put him in a wheelchair.

But many of his fellow vets who are coming home injured don't have family to care for them and end up in nursing homes.

"(A soldier) doesn't want to go there. Doesn't want to live there. They feel they're too young," Scott Ellis said, Government Relations Director for the Mid-America Chapter Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Ellis completely supports the Oklahoma Medical Foster Home Act which was signed into law by Governor Fallin last week.

It allows the Veterans Administration to start recruiting caregivers to offer their own homes to veterans who need round-the-clock care.

"Where they have one person caring for them and they can go in the living room at watch TV and still be part of that home atmosphere," Ellis said.

Injured veteran Alphonso Lopez loves the idea.

"It's better to boost up somebody's self-esteem," he said. "Let them know that there's somebody out there that really cares and they're not alone."

The author of Senate Bill 1210, Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Dist.14), read about the program working in other states.

He was inspired by testimonials from soldiers in other states who made the switch from nursing homes to medical foster homes.

"It has not only helped their spiritual well-being but has also helped their physical well-being, and they just tend to thrive better in a home setting," he said.

The veteran pays the caregiver directly and the contract fee is based on the level of care needed.

So far, nearly 1,100 soldiers nationwide have benefitted from the program.

Ellis said the Oklahoma Veterans Administration has staff ready to start inspecting homes and certify caregivers.

Anyone interested in the program should contact the V.A.