VA Benefits that Post-9/11 Caregivers Shouldn’t Miss
When a veteran is suffering the effects of a serious injury – whether physical or psychological – he or she is often depending on the help of a family caregiver to live daily life. And while this family member is acting through a sense of love and loyalty, caregiving can be a challenging and tiring role, especially if one feels alone in their work. The good news for family caregivers is that there is much support available from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) that can directly improve quality of life for both the veteran and the caregiver.
For veterans injured in service on or after 9/11 specifically, there is a comprehensive set of services for family caregivers that was introduced under the "Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010.” To be eligible for these services, a veteran must:
- Have sustained a serious injury (including traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma, or other mental disorder) in the line of duty, on or after Sept. 11, 2001
- Be in need of personal care services, supervision, or protection during one or more activities of daily living (ADL) as a result of the injury
- Become enrolled for VA health services, if not enrolled previously
Recent studies show that caregivers themselves often begin to suffer from poor health, depression, anxiety, and are often unprepared to take on the intense requirements of caregiving for a seriously injured loved one. These new caregiver-focused services address the less-obvious but very important needs of a caregiver such as securing training, relief, and help when they need it most.
For example, qualifying family caregivers are eligible for:
- Monthly stipend, based on the veteran’s level of need and required assistance
- Travel expenses (including lodging and per diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care)
- Access to health care insurance (if the caregiver is not already covered under a plan)
- Mental health services and counseling
- Comprehensive VA Caregiver training provided by Easter Seals
- Respite care (not less than 30 days per year)
To receive these benefits, a caregiver must be officially designated by the VA and provide services not already provided by other care providers. He or she must be at least 18 years of age and be the Veteran’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, stepfamily member, extended family member, or someone who lives with the veteran full time. Prior to approval, the caregiver will be given training and must be able to demonstrate the ability to assist the veteran with personal care functions required in everyday living.
After the training, a VA clinician will visit the veteran’s home to ensure that the family caregiver applicant and veteran have everything they need to be safe and successful in the home setting. To start this process, a caregiver should visit the VA’s eligibility check page and download an application. Within three business days of receipt of the initial application, the Caregiver Support Coordinator at the Veteran’s preferred VA Medical Center will contact the veteran and family caregiver applicant(s) to start the formal process.
In addition, the VA maintains a robust website with caregiver resources, as well as a website and phone line with confidential support for veterans in crisis. Through these tools, the VA hopes to improve quality of life, reduce stress, and help honor of wounded veterans and their families with the respect and support they deserve after sacrificing so much for their country.
Written by Megan Hammons