March 31, 2022

In Columbus, VITAS Shows How We’re Always There for Veterans

Robert and Victoria on their wedding day

Robert Vaughan, a military veteran, and his wife, Victoria, on their wedding day. Robert and Victoria turned to VITAS Chaplain and Bereavement Services Manager Mark Hensley for help with Robert's Veterans Affairs benefits.

When Robert Vaughan, a VITAS patient and US Marine who served in Vietnam, neared the end of life, he and his wife of 51 years could no longer make the trips to attend their Veterans Affairs (VA) appointments in person.

Robert’s wife, Victoria, who uses a wheelchair, cared for him to the best of her ability. She knew the love of her life was getting ready to leave her, so she also had to get necessary VA entitlement paperwork taken care of before her beloved passed.

If documents weren’t signed by Robert, she’d be left without benefits.

That’s when she reached out to Mark Hensley for help. As a VITAS chaplain and bereavement services manager in Columbus, Ohio, Mark provides spiritual guidance and emotional support for veterans on their journey toward the end of life.

“My mission is to make sure that everything is taken care of for the patient and their family,” he says. “I do my very best to follow through on the wishes of the soldier.”

Providing Top-Notch Care for Veterans

Taking care of veterans is a top priority at VITAS. In cooperation with General Manager Mark Knepper and Volunteer Manager Dolores Hickman, the Columbus team is one of the few in the country to achieve We Honor Veterans’ “Level 5” status. We Honor Veterans is a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and Level 5 is the highest an organization can receive for providing veterans with compassionate care.

Mr. Vaughan was loyal and dutiful in everything he put his mind to do.-Mark Hensley, VITAS chaplain and bereavement services manager

“I served as a military chaplain in the 1st battalion, 147th Armor Regiment and have a deep understanding of what duty, follow-through, and commitment means to a soldier,” says Mark. “Robert was as devoted in the Catholic faith, as he was a Marine – until his last breath. He and Victoria were married for 51 years. Mr. Vaughan was loyal and dutiful in everything he put his mind to do. It was an honor to help this family in every way possible.”

With agreement from the Vaughan family and VITAS senior management, Mark made an unscheduled visit to the VA on behalf of the family to acquire the needed identification within the system for Robert’s records of service.

In the role of advocate, he informed the right decision-makers about the family’s physical limitations, as well as the soldier’s terminal health status. He then set up a video conference call for Robert and Victoria with a VA counselor. Utilizing, Robert was able to sign the entitlement documents in real time.

The vital paperwork could then be processed, ensuring Victoria would be taken care of after Robert passed.

‘The Way He Wanted Things to Be’

“For all its hiccups, modern technology can work miracles,” says Mark. “Importantly, everything was taken care of remotely, eliminating unwanted public exposure to COVID-19. Robert and Victoria have compromised immune systems. It was a deep sense of accomplishment. At the end of the day, my work is fulfilling and rewarding.”

On Monday, January 24, 2022, some 34 days later, Robert Vaughan passed away. Fortunately, the necessary paperwork had been completed. Victoria could grieve without worrying about how she could keep a roof over her head and food on the table after Robert passed.

“This is the way he wanted things to be,” said Victoria.


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