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Friday, August 11, 2017

Humanitarian obituary - Val Halamandaris: those who knew him are mourning

Everyone who had the chance to meet Val Halamandaris remembered their experience because he was a humble humanitarian. 

Val's death is a loss to those of us who pray for inspired leaders to strive for policies to improve the human condition.

Thankfully, I kept the card from Val along with this lovely photograph.
Juliana L'Heureux with Joseph Pickering (center) and Val, in Boston MA, at the Top of the Pru.

It was an honor to call Val a colleague, when I worked for home health care and hospice.  This is a photograph to remind me of those good times, with Joseph Pickering to my left, and Val Halamandaris obviously enjoying our conversation, taken in Boston at a National Home Care and Hospice annual meeting.
I recall how the top of the Prudential Building on that night allowed for a full view of a magnificent full moon.

During those special times, we were filled with optimism about our nation's capacity to care for others.  Following is Val's impressive obituary.

Washington DC: Val Halamandaris NAHC (National Association for Homecare and Hospice),  President.

 It is with great sadness that the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) announces the passing of its president, Val J. Halamandaris, after a long illness on July 23, 2017. Often referred to as the "leader of the last great civil rights movement", Val worked tirelessly for 50 years to improve the lives and secure the rights of America's elderly and infirm. 

A self-described "small-town boy who came to Washington, D.C. many years ago, full of ideals," Val responded to President John F. Kennedy's call to public service by joining the staff of Senator Frank E. Moss (D-UT) and enrolling in George Washington University and then Catholic University Law School. 

Val was quickly drawn to the issues facing senior citizens with the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging and was instrumental in crafting the landmark Medicare and Medicaid programs, including the home health benefit. In 1967, Val and Senator Moss created the "Moss Amendments," which set minimum federal standards for nursing homes. In 1969, Val led an eight-year investigation of nursing homes around the United States, culminating in a 12-volume report, the first of 25 major reports Val wrote for Congress. 

In 1972, Val produced the first hearings on hospice and wrote the original legislation to provide Medicare coverage for hospice. 

Val's investigation into Medicare and Medicaid fraud made such abuse a felony and led to the creation of state and federal oversight of the problem. Working with Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL) in the House of Representatives, Val continued his fight for the aged by helping create the Medicare hospice benefit and reforming the sale of health insurance to senior citizens. Distressed by the conditions he found in America's nursing homes, Val left Congress to find what he called "a better way" health care in the home. When Val founded NAHC, institutionalization of the elderly was the rule and home care was unknown to many. Due in no small part to Val's hard work, leadership and unflagging advocacy, NAHC now represents the nation's 33,000 home care and hospice organizations, two million nurses, therapists and other caregivers and the 12 million infirm, ill, and disabled Americans who receive health care in their homes. Inspired by an encounter with Mother Theresa, Val founded the Caring Institute in 1985 to promote the values of caring and public service and grant scholarship money to young persons. President Bill Clinton called Val "a remarkable human being and one of the most exceptional people that I have ever known" and Claude Pepper said Val was "the best, brightest, and most talented person to have worked for him in 50 years of public service." To the end of his days, Val was guided by these words from President Kennedy: "What we need to do is take care of people till the end of their days, we have the resources, and we have the money. What is at stake is the very future of American democracy and how we are going to be viewed through the prism of history because all great civilizations can be measured by a common yard stick- how did they take care of our vulnerable populations." For his lifetime of dedication to the public good, Val will be posthumously honored with the Pope Francis Award for Charity and Leadership in October. One of the most impactful Americans of the last 50 years, Val cannot be replaced and will never be forgotten. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen M. Brennan; three sons, their wives; six grandchildren and one brother. 

A Funeral Mass for Val will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Caring Institute"> Funeral Mass for Val will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. 

+Rest in Peace Val Halamindaris

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