How Do Medical Foster Homes Work for a Veteran’s Care?

Q. My father is a U.S. Army veteran in need of more care than we can provide for him in our home. He’s not sure he is ready to go to a nursing home yet. Does the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) offer any programs for people in his situation and, if so, are they covered by the VA or Medicare? Thanks for your help!

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A. Senior veterans who require around the clock care have several options available to them through the VA. One such option is the VA’s Medical Foster Home Program, where veterans are able to receive personalized care in a home setting.

Most Veterans want to age in place for as long as they can, so the VA has been working to expand its medical foster home program to allow caregivers to care for Veterans in their own home. “Veterans love this program because it gives them an opportunity to be a part of a loving family,” said Beau Williams, Medical Foster Home Program coordinator, who not only markets the program, but helps place Veterans in loving homes, and interviews and approves caregivers.

How Medical Foster Homes Work

As an example, Tammy Norton was a caregiver for her father through the VA Medical Foster Home Program. She also took in two additional Veterans, Clayton and Nat. Her father recently passed away, but she continues to care for her “new family,” as she put it.

The Veterans use their VA Home Based Primary Care benefits to pay Tammy (and a relief caregiver) for the home based care, which includes everything from meals to bathing, but it’s so much more than that. The three go on outings together, attend church, even vacation together. They are a family.

Similar to Tammy’s situation, usually one to three veterans live in each foster home. Others may reside in the homes as well.

To be a medical foster home, there must be a trained caregiver on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The caregivers, who live on the premises, are trained annually by the VA and state/local jurisdictions and must be licensed by the state. The process for becoming a home provider is rigorous. They must pass a federal background check, complete 80 hours of initial training and 20 hours of additional training each year, and maintain certifications in first aid, CPR and administering medications. The home itself is inspected annually by the VA and, depending on the location, by state and local authorities.

Things You Should Know about the Medical Foster Home Program

  • For the veteran, each home provides furnished private/semi-private rooms; 24/7 supervision; meals, laundry, and cleaning; assistance with personal care (dressing, grooming, bathing, etc.); medication management; companionship with caregivers and other residents; flexibility in daily routine; and in some cases, the ability to have a pet.
  • The VA’s Medical Foster Home program can be an alternative to a nursing home for many veterans until nursing home care is needed. It is appropriate for veterans who may need nursing home-level care in the future, but prefer a non-institutional setting with fewer residents for as long as they can live there.
  • Veterans in the Medical Foster Care program must also use the VA’s Home Based Primary Care program. A VA study found that this type of home-based care yielded a 31% reduction in hospital admissions for veterans in the program and 59% drop in VA in-patient hospitalization days.
  • Many caregivers are already medically trained and VA provides classes and specialized training such as spinal cord injury care for their live-in patients.
  • Some medical care is provided on the premises by VA caregivers; many homes also offer free transportation to VA medical facilities, as well as social and other outings.
  • The VA sends home-based care specialists to the Veterans on a weekly basis for any additional assistance they require.
  • The VA has faced challenges increasing the number of Medical Foster Homes because of the rigorous regulations and requirements of the facilities and caregivers.
  • VA organizes regular foster care socials where all foster home Veterans and their caregivers are invited to spend time together.
  • Even though most of the veterans in the foster home program are somewhat limited to their home, they are still able to be involved in their community. Some participate in “Make a Difference Day,” a national service day where volunteers look for opportunities to enrich the lives of others.

How Much Do Medical Foster Homes Cost and Are They Covered?

The monthly cost of a Medical Foster Home is based on income and the level of medical care required, but the VA says that care in a medical foster home runs about $1,500 to $3,000 monthly. The VA doesn’t pay any of the costs of medical foster home care. However, most veterans can manage to pay for their care with a combination of their VA compensation, Social Security, insurance, and savings. There are also other state and federal programs that may help.

To be eligible for the program, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care and have a complex disabling medical condition that requires coordination of care across VA services and is severe enough to need a nursing home level of care. The program isn’t available nationwide yet, but it is expanding. A VA social worker or case manager can help you with eligibility guidelines for Home Based Primary Care and locate medical foster home care. Call your local VA office or hospital for more information.

VA Recently Announced That They Are Expanding Programs, Including the Medical Foster Home Program

VA officials announced this past Monday that they will be expanding the Home-Based Primary Care and Veteran-Directed Care programs, which provide medical care and caregiver services to housebound older veterans, and its Medical Foster Home program, which provides housing and services to veterans who otherwise would be in nursing homes. Please read today’s Critter Corner for more details on the Homemaker Home Health Aide Care program.

VA officials said that more veterans have elected to use the in-home medical care and caregiver programs during the pandemic, as well as the Medical Foster Care program, to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 and to have more flexibility in medical treatment. We will keep you up to date on what the expansion means for the Medical Foster Care program.

More information on these programs is available at the VA’s Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care website.

Another Veteran’s Benefit Many Don’t Know About: Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Benefit

For veterans who don’t yet need the nursing home level of care, but who do need the assisted living level of care, whether at home or in an assisted living facility, the Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit is a monetary benefit that helps eligible veterans and their surviving spouses to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses. The Veterans Aid and Attendance program is an incredibly valuable program for those veterans who need assistance with the activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, transferring, and toileting, among others. In 2022, qualifying veterans who are married could be eligible for a VA Pension of approximately $2,431 per month to help cover the costs of elder care assistance. Click here for more details.

Here at the Farr Law Firm, we work with veterans and their spouses to evaluate whether they qualify or may potentially qualify for Aid and Attendance and/or Medicaid in the future, and we deal with all the paperwork. As a Certified Elder Law Attorney and an Accredited Attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, I understand both the Aid and Attendance Benefit and the Medicaid program and the interaction between both entitlement programs — and this interaction between the programs is of crucial importance because most veterans who start off needing Aid and Attendance will eventually need Medicaid. This is why all asset protection planning that is done to make a veteran eligible for Aid and Attendance must take future Medicaid benefits into account. Please call us at any time to make an appointment for an initial no-cost consultation:

Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888

Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435

Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041

Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Attorney Washington, DC: 202-587-2797

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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