Critter Corner: Caregiving for a Veteran

Dear Ribbit,
 
My husband is an partially disabled veteran and I am his caregiver. Sometimes, it can be stressful, and I can use all the help, support, and educational resources I can get. A friend told me she thinks that there’s some type of program that offers “comprehensive assistance” for family members who provide care for a veteran, but she’s not sure what it’s called. Do you know anything about such a program and how it might be of help to pay caregiver such as myself?
 
Thanks!
 
Karen Foravett

Dear Karen,

Please thank your husband for his service to our country. And, thanks to you and all of the other caregivers out there who take care of veterans!

Caregivers for veterans are a critical part of our health care system. You, and others like you, make it possible for wounded veterans to remain at home rather than in care facilities, helping with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation, and medication management. The RAND Corporation estimates that informal caregivers for veterans save the U.S. millions of dollars in health care costs each year, providing in-home assistance to 5.5 million veterans.

Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has offered what it calls a Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers for veterans of the post-9/11 era. The program provides support for informal caregivers of veterans—most often spouses or other family members. Family members who serve as primary caregivers receive formal training and, importantly, financial assistance. Nearly 23,000 caregivers have signed up for the program since it began.

Earlier this year, the program came under fire when many local VA medical centers dropped caregivers from the rolls, seemingly without warning and without cause. Families who had relied on the program for years were told they were no longer eligible, even in cases where the veteran continued to require the services provided by the caregiver. In response, VA Secretary David Shulkin called for a full review of the program. Following the three-month review, the VA reported this past summer that the program has resumed full operations with better processes and clarity in place to ensure that eligible families get and keep the services they need. And a new committee was recently established to advise the VA on issues facing veterans’ families, caregivers, and survivors.

The VA caregiver support program currently offers many helpful resources. It provides online materials about dealing with veterans’ post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other common conditions, along with peer support services such as monthly phone calls that allow caregivers to connect with each other. But only a small portion of the 1.1 million people caring for post-9/11 veterans are eligible for and enrolled in the program. Friends or relatives who don’t live with the veteran full time, even if they serve as the primary caregiver, are not eligible.

According to the VA at https://www.caregiver.va.gov/support/support_benefits.asp:

The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers offers enhanced support for Caregivers of eligible Veterans seriously injured in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001.

Enhanced services for eligible participants may include a financial stipend, access to health care insurance, mental health services and counseling, caregiver training, and respite care.

Who is eligible?

Veterans eligible for this program must:

· have sustained or aggravated a serious injury — including traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma or other mental disorder — in the line of duty, on or after September 11, 2001; and
· be in need of personal care services to perform one or more activities of daily living and/or need supervision or protection based on symptoms or residuals of neurological impairment or injury.

Hop this is helpful,

Ribbit

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