New Support for Caregivers of Veterans

Q. My sister, Peggy, recently became a full-time caregiver for our 72-year old father, Joe. Since he served during the Vietnam War, he has had flashbacks that still affect him and keep him up at night. He suffered at least one stroke in the last 5 years, has trouble walking, seeing, and hearing. My sister is having a hard time shouldering the responsibility, and needs any assistance that she can get because I think it is affecting her health.  I would love to help her, but my job keeps my family from moving, so I do my best to visit often and contribute as much as I can financially. Are there any support programs for caregivers of veterans that my sister can turn to? Thanks for your help!

A. Taking care of a veteran, or any loved one in need, requires real strength, endurance, commitment, and patience. Without assistance in managing the responsibilities of being a caregiver for your father, your sister may experience stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, financial challenges, or effects on her personal health (as you mentioned).  She is not alone, and luckily there are resources to help.

On May 5, 2010, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 was signed into law. Title I of the Act allows the VA to provide benefits to eligible caregivers (a parent, spouse, child, step-family member, extended family member, or an individual who lives with the veteran, but is not a family member). As a result of the Act, the following services are now available to help qualifying caregivers of veterans:

  • National Caregiver Support Line: The VA established a National Caregiver Support Line to answer questions and provide resources. Talking to someone who understands what life is like as a caregiver can provide your sister with the emotional support to stay strong and attend to her own daily needs. The support line is open during the week (8am- 11 pm) and on Saturdays (10:30am- 6pm) and can be reached at 1-855-260-3274. All calls are answered by VA employees who are also licensed clinical social workers and health technicians.
  • Caregiver Coordinators: Callers to the National Caregiver Support Line often receive referrals to a caregiver support coordinator in their community. These coordinators can provide information on new benefits available to veterans and caregivers. Caregiver Support Coordinators are also available at every VA Medical Center, and you can also find their contact information online using your zip code.
  • Caregiver Website: The VA caregiver support website offers valuable information on services for caregivers, as well as advice on resilience and support to deal with caregiver responsibilities.
  • Easter Seals Caregiver Training: Easter Seals and the VA provide caregiver training via face-to-face classes throughout the country, a workbook/DVD approach, and on-demand web access. Eligible caregivers are certified by their local VA Caregiver Support Coordinators to receive this training. Those certified and completing the training become eligible for Veteran Caregiver benefits.
  • Caregiver Workshop: The VA offers a six-week online workshop at no-cost, called Building Better Caregivers™, for family caregivers of veterans. This comprehensive online workshop is highly-interactive and typically involves 20-25 family caregivers completing the online workshop together. Interested caregivers should contact a local Caregiver Support Coordinator, who can provide additional information and referral to the program.
  •  Monthly stipend (for the caregiver only) based on the personal care needs of the veteran: A monthly stipend  amount, based on what a commercial home health care provider would pay for equivalent services, may be available. You can access an online compensation calculator or find out more at www.caregiver.va.gov. Caregivers can receive an average $1,600 in monthly stipend payments.
  • Respite Care is designed to relieve the family caregiver from the constant burden of caring for a chronically ill or disabled veteran at home. Services can include in-home care, a short stay in an institutional setting, or adult day health care.
  • Other Benefits: VA provides durable medical equipment and prosthetic and sensory aides to improve function, financial assistance with home modification to improve access and mobility, and transportation assistance for some veterans to and from medical appointments.

We hope that your sister will take advantage of the caregiver resources available to her, and various benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) It is also important to ensure that she is taking care of herself, by maintaining healthy eating and sleeping habits, avoiding isolation, and sharing her experience with others, while working hard to care for your father.

I am an Accredited Attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs who understands the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit (for qualifying veterans or their single surviving spouse), and the Medicaid program and the interaction between both benefit programs (please note that I do not work with clients seeking service-connected compensation).  I work with clients to obtain the financial assistance to which they are entitled and enable veterans and their families to afford the type of long-term care that they need, whether home care, adult day care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.

If your father has served 90 days active duty, and at least one day during a period of wartime, and you need physical assistance with your activities of daily living, be sure to make an appointment ASAP for an introductory consultation at the Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C.  We can work with your family to evaluate if he qualifies for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit and/or Medicaid (or if we can get him qualified) and we will handle the filing of all the tedious and technical paperwork. Call us at our Fairfax Virginia Elder Law office at 703-691-1888 or at our Fredericksburg Virginia Elder Law office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment today.

 

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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