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James R. Kelly (1934 - 2002)

James R. Kelly’s pioneering work in the development and administration of the Veterans Administration Extended Care Programs has basically shaped the modalities of long-term care now available to veterans across the country.  As Chief, Community Care Programs (1975-1988) and Director, Extended Care Service (1988-1997) in the VA Central Office, he fostered the growth of new home and community-based services and led the effort to coordinate and integrate individual long-term care programs into a unified continuum of extended care programs.

Jim (as he is known) Kelly achieved many “firsts” in his pioneering efforts in the VA:  implementing legislation and setting standards allowing VA to reimburse community nursing homes; arranging for adoption of Medicare/Medicaid standards by VA; initiating the first federal standards for residential care; implementing Community Residential Care, Adult Day Health Care and Homemaker/Home Health Aide services within the VA system; expanding these programs to include the frail elderly and the mentally ill as well as the physically disabled; establishing a comprehensive policy for VA long-term care programs.   With each policy and program development, he held inter-disciplinary educational seminars for VA staff and other professional caregivers.

Jim Kelly (born November 2, 1934 in Baltimore, Maryland, grew up on the family farm in nearby Bel Air.  He graduated from Georgetown University in 1956.  He served in the Army for two years, and then went to the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago where he received his MASSA in 1961.  His social work career started at the VA Hospital in Perry Point, Maryland, where he was on the staff for 10 years.  He was Chief, Social Work Service at the VA Medical Center in Togus, Maine for three years, before being reassigned as one of the original staff members in the Geriatrics and Extended Care Strategic Healthcare Group when it was formed as an office in 1975.

The National Council honored Mr. Kelly’s work in Adult Day Health Care on Aging by awarding him the John Heinz Award in 1993.  Upon his retirement from the VA, in 1997, Mr. Kelly received a Distinguished Career Award from the Secretary of the Department.   The Citation concluded:  “Finally, James Kelly epitomizes the public servant at his very best.  A career federal employee, he has consistently demonstrated intelligence, hard work, determination, and attention to detail to become and remain a successful leader in long-term care.  He has served as a valued mentor to many professionals in long-term care, he has instilled in others the importance of the mission of service to veterans and the expectation of excellence in care, delivery, program management and policy analysis.”

Social Work Pioneer - 1997

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