Access Your Benefits for Caregivers of Veterans
Just like military service is a commitment for the whole family, a service-related injury can completely change an entire family dynamic and lifestyle, especially if this injury results in the veteran needing regular assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). Oftentimes, it is a family member who steps up to fill the role of caregiver, and, while he or she undoubtedly undertakes this work with love, caregiving can be challenging, exhausting, and straining on the family budget. Thankfully, there are numerous benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that can help make life a little easier, offer assistance and a little time off, and connect caregivers with others in similar situations.
What are the Benefits for Post-9/11 Injured Veterans and Caregivers?
In 2010, the U.S. government officially recognized these challenges and passed the Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, focusing on caregivers of servicemen and women injured on or after September 11, 2001. Under this bill, an eligible caregiver is a parent, spouse, child, step-family member, extended family member, or individual who lives with the veteran, but is not a family member. Veterans eligible for this program are those who sustained a serious injury – including traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma, or other mental disorders – incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, on or after 9/11. The veteran must be enrolled for VA services and must be in need of personal care services because of an inability to perform one or more ADLS and/or need supervision or protection based on symptoms or impact of neurological impairment or injury.
Eligible caregivers are, under this law, able to receive:
- Monthly stipend (calculated based on the hours of care needed per week)
- Travel expenses (including lodging and per diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care)
- Access to health care insurance if needed
- Mental health services and counseling
- Comprehensive VA Caregiver training provided by Easter Seals
- Respite care (“time off” for the caregiver, at least 30 days per year)
You can check you eligibility by answering a few questions online and be guided to the correct application of the VA website, or you can call 1-877-222-VETS (8387) for assistance.
What are the Benefits for Caregivers of Veterans of Any Age?
For caregivers of veterans of any age and military history, the VA also offers a wide range of services to help caregivers stay strong and balanced. For example, the VA maintains an extensive online caregiver website that offers numerous resources to help a caregiver not only do his or her job better, but ensure that they are taking care of their own mental and physical health. The site includes:
- A caregiver toolbox that improves efficiency and organization, with medication checklists, diagnosis care sheets, and information specific to new caregivers
- A caregiver connection section that features stories of other caregivers, videos, and the chance to share your own story.
- A “staying strong” section that includes tips on finding balance in life and ensuring that you care for yourself properly.
Free Caregiver Support Line
For caregivers needing immediate assistance or interested in learning what benefits may apply in their situation, the VA's Caregiver Support Line (1-855-260-3274) is an excellent place to start. Representatives can discuss the assistance available from VA, help you access services, connect you with the Caregiver Support Coordinator at a VA Medical Center near you, or just offer a supportive ear, if that's what is needed at the moment.
Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) Centers
An excellent way to let your veteran socialize with other veterans and enjoy a change of scenery is the VA’s Adult Day Health Care Centers. These centers offer a safe and active environment with constant supervision and activities, provide by professionals who can assess a veteran's rehabilitation needs and help him or her accomplish various tasks to maintain or regain personal independence and dignity. ADHC centers are typically open Monday through Friday during normal business hours and offer a caregiver a bit of time to take care of personal needs, appointments, or simply have a short break. The ADHC Centers emphasize a partnership with the caregiver, the veteran, and the Center’s staff.
Home-Based Primary Care
Traveling with an elderly or injured veteran can be stressful and difficult, even for routine check-ups. The Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC) is a VA program designed to deliver routine health care services to you via medical professionals who will come to your home. Services may include primary care and nursing, managing medication, and helping plan and put together nutritious and tasty meals, physical rehabilitation, mental health care for the veteran, social work, and referrals to VA and community services.
Skilled Home Care
Similar to Home-Based Primary Care, Skilled Home Care provides medical services within the home from skilled professionals, with the difference being the VA contracts with non-VA medical professionals to provide care. Services include basic nursing services and physical, occupational, or speech therapies. To be eligible for this service, a Veteran must be homebound and have great difficulty traveling to receive medical care.
Homemaker and Home Health Aide Program
Oftentimes the regular assistance and care for a veteran’s activities of daily living can become taxing or even physically impossible for a caregiver. Through the Homemaker and Home Health Aide Program, the VA contracts with professional caregivers to come offer assistance on a regular basis. This can help the family caregiver have time to take care of his or her personal needs, or just lighten the load a bit. This program is also available to veterans who are isolated and need assistance on a daily basis in their home.
Home Teleheath is another way the VA is working to delivery health care to a veteran in his or her home. This program gives veterans and their caregivers ready access to a care coordinator by using their phone or computer in their home. The services are typically offered to individuals who live at a distance from a VA Medical Center and include education, training, and online and telephone support groups.
To be a good caregiver, you must also be sure that you take care for yourself. Finding time to take care of personal tasks – like going to your own doctor appointments, exercising, visiting with friends, or simply relaxing – can be difficult to find as you care full-time for your loved one. However, as a caregiver to a veteran, you are eligible to receive up to 30 days of respite care per year, provided by the VA in a variety of ways. This respite care is also helpful in case you unexpectedly are hospitalized, need to go out of town, or have an emergency.
Home Hospice Care
For senior veterans or veterans with a terminal disease, they may prefer to spend their final days at home. Home Hospice Care can offer comfort and supportive services during these days, provided by an interdisciplinary team of health care providers and volunteers from a local community hospice agency. The team is there for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bereavement care (grief counseling) is also available for you and other immediate family members.
Peer Support for Caregivers
VA has developed a Caregiver Peer Support Mentoring Program to connect caregivers to one another, to provide support, and to learn from each other. Peer Support Mentoring provides an opportunity for caregivers to share their experience, wisdom, skills, and passion with each other via a mentor and mentee relationship. Mentors and Mentees communicate using email, telephone, and letter writing, and mentors receive training before being paired with their mentee.
For more information on any of these benefits, call the VA's Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 toll-free, or find your local licensed Caregiver Support Coordinator by visiting the VA’s Help Near Home page and entering your zip code.
Is there a Benefit to Help Pay for Caregivers of Veterans?
The Aid and Attendance pension benefit helps pay for costs of senior care for both veterans and spouses of veterans. For veterans or spouses who require regular aid and attendance of another person to help them with activities of daily living (ADLs) this pension benefit can be a big help. The A&A benefit helps pay for home care, assisted living, nursing home care, and memory care. To help determine whether an applicant may be eligible or not there is a free eligibility calculator for Aid and Attendance on VeteranAid.org as well as complete instructions on how to apply.
Written By Megan Hammons