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Taking Care of Caregivers

Taking Care of Caregivers

Taking Care of Caregivers

By Debbie Gregory

By a vote of 92-5, the Senate passed the VA Mission Act, which will expand the VA’s caregiver stipend program for the families of disabled veterans. Currently, the caregiver program is limited to post-9/11 veterans and would be extended to veterans of all eras.

This program is separate from the Aid and Attendance benefit, which is paid to veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension and require the aid and attendance of another person, or are housebound.

The Mission Act will consolidate seven separate programs under Choice in an effort to improve efficiency.

The VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers provides small stipends to family caregivers that in many cases allow disabled veterans to remain at home. The program focuses on the needs of both the eligible veteran/servicemember and the eligible primary and secondary family caregivers.

Under the proposed legislation, the caregiver program would be expanded to benefit the families of all veterans with a serious injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.

“DAV has long advocated for extending comprehensive caregiver benefits to veterans injured and ill prior to September 11, 2001, and this legislation takes major strides to close that gap and provide equity to thousands of family caregivers,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of the DAV’s Washington headquarters.

A care giver is defined as a member of the veteran/servicemember’s family, such as a spouse, son, daughter, parent, step-family member, or extended family member, or if not related, must live with the veteran/servicemember, or will do so if designated as a family caregiver.

The VA recognizes that family caregivers enhance the health and well-being of Veterans they care for in their home.

Caregivers should contact their local Caregiver Support Coordinator with any questions or concerns. Contact information for Caregiver Support Coordinators can be found at www.caregiver.va.gov, using a zip code lookup. The Caregiver Support Line is also available by calling toll free 1-855-260-3274.

Most Disabled Veterans Don’t Have Access to Full VA Caregiver Support

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By Debbie Gregory.

Family caregivers sacrifice so much of themselves in order to give their loved ones the highest quality of life possible. Yet most people are unaware of who these caregivers are and the role they play and the unique obstacles they face, especially those who are caring for a disabled veteran.

Veterans who were injured after Sept. 11, 2001 and require at-home care have access to for the full package of caregiver supports through the VA. However, this is not true for veterans who were severely injured prior to 2001.

Veteran service organizations such as Disabled American Veterans (DAV) are working with the VA and Congress to change this policy, in the hopes of expanding VA caregiver benefits, such as training and education, financial stipends, health insurance and respite care to all veterans, regardless of when they served.

Of the 5.5 million caregivers who provide support to current and former service members, roughly 80%, (4.4 million) are caring for veterans from military service prior to 2001. The majority of caregivers are spouses who receive very little in the way of benefits or support.

Expanding the VA’s caregiver support program is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, as family caregivers not only enhance the quality of life for those they care for, but also save the government significantly in long-term health care costs.

And with some 57% of veteran caregivers over the age of 55, they are more likely to experience health concerns of their own, which could result in increased strain on both the veteran and the caregiver.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.