WASHINGTON, Ga. (WJBF) – Planning to live a comfortable life after retirement can be exciting, but those plans can change instantly at the onset of health challenges. When it’s dementia, that can be scary for a family as life can change drastically. One wife is fighting for care for her husband who once served this country. Now he is without any veterans benefits.
Retired Command Sergeant Major Michael Davis once said, ‘Caring for soldiers is my number one priority.’ But after a dementia diagnosis at age 58 six years ago, the veteran is now struggling for someone to care for him.
Teresa Davis and her husband Michael made plans to live out their golden years just as they sent their last son off to University of Georgia.
“Once we got our youngest son through college we were planning on picking up the investments that much more so that we could eventually retire and have a fairly comfortable existence,” she recalled.
But in 2011 it all changed for the man serving as Washington’s Chief of Police and his family.
“They had notified me that he needed to not come back to work,” Teresa said after her husband was unable to perform his duties in law enforcement well.
Doctors told Teresa her husband had dementia. And that illness was only the start of the battles the family faced.
“There were anger issues or he would lash out. Jacob was living down at UGA and he made the decision to move back home so he would be at the house to intervene,” she recalled, explaining how her husband began to target her due to his illness.
The advanced dementia forced Teresa to place Michael in round the clock care. And despite 29 years of service and a high army ranking, it wasn’t enough to extend VA benefits.
“We have been told that because he did not have any time that was documented in Vietnam that he did not qualify for care and that the degree of his disability did not meet the necessary requirements,” she said adding that her husband spent 14 of his 29 years of service at Fort McClellan where he was command sergeant major of the post. Prior to that, he spent four years as the Command Sergeant Major of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, KS.
Teresa now faces a more than $31,000 bill for her husband’s care in Sparta. She said the $6,100 a month stay has depleted what the couple once saved for their retirement.
“It hurts me to think that he was so tremendously dedicated and that’s how he was as a person. You would hope that his country would be just as dedicated and appreciate what he had done for them,” she said.
Because the family can’t afford to keep paying that high cost, Michael Davis will be forced out of that Sparta facility on February 25th, and back living at home without quality care.
Other vets and the Washington community plan to attend a BBQ fundraiser tomorrow at VFW 5899 in Washington to help. Davis’ daughter has started a GoFundMe account to assist with the long term care of her father.
Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins