VA Works to Provide Post-9/11 Family Caregiver Benefits

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2011 — A month after the Vet­er­ans Affairs Depart­ment began pro­cess­ing appli­ca­tions for pri­ma­ry fam­i­ly care­givers of eli­gi­ble post-9/11 vet­er­ans, offi­cials report steady progress toward deliv­er­ing the new ser­vices and ben­e­fits.

VA began pro­cess­ing appli­ca­tions for new ser­vices May 9, four days after Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma signed the Care­givers and Vet­er­ans Omnibus Health Ser­vices Act of 2010 into law. A month lat­er, VA spokesman Drew Brook­ie report­ed 1,119 appli­ca­tions in process, with care­giv­er train­ing pro­grams already under way. Five care­givers have com­plet­ed the train­ing and require only a final VA home vis­it before they can begin receiv­ing the new enti­tle­ments, Brook­ie said.

The new law pro­vides eli­gi­ble fam­i­ly care­givers who care for severe­ly dis­abled vet­er­ans a month­ly stipend, men­tal health ser­vices and access to health-care insur­ance if they are not already enti­tled to care or ser­vices under a health plan. Care­givers also qual­i­fy for trav­el expens­es, includ­ing lodg­ing and per diem when accom­pa­ny­ing their fam­i­ly mem­ber for care, com­pre­hen­sive care­giv­er train­ing, med­ical sup­port and respite care.

The ben­e­fits extend to fam­i­ly care­givers of vet­er­ans who have sus­tained a seri­ous injury, includ­ing trau­mat­ic brain injury, psy­cho­log­i­cal trau­ma or anoth­er men­tal dis­or­der, incurred or aggra­vat­ed in the line of duty after Sept. 11, 2001. The vet­er­ans must be unable to per­form dai­ly liv­ing activ­i­ties on their own or need super­vi­sion or pro­tec­tion due to their injury or neu­ro­log­i­cal impair­ment, offi­cials explained. In addi­tion, qual­i­fy­ing vet­er­ans must be enrolled in VA health ser­vices.

After 625 vet­er­ans and fam­i­ly care­givers sub­mit­ted appli­ca­tions for the new ben­e­fits and ser­vices the first week VA began accept­ing them, VA Sec­re­tary Eric K. Shin­se­ki encour­aged oth­ers to fol­low suit.

“We are off to a good start, hav­ing helped hun­dreds to apply, but we know there are thou­sands more who will qual­i­fy and need to apply today,” he said. “I encour­age eli­gi­ble vet­er­ans and their fam­i­ly care­givers to apply now to receive the ben­e­fits they have earned.”

Of appli­ca­tions received to date, 92 per­cent have been from women — about 67 per­cent of them spous­es and 17 per­cent moth­ers, Brook­ie report­ed. Forty-five per­cent of care­giv­er appli­cants have been between ages 26 and 40, and 43 per­cent, between 41 and 64.

To date, the Fayet­teville VA Med­ical Cen­ter in North Car­oli­na, just out­side Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, has received the largest num­ber of appli­ca­tions, at 39, Brook­ie report­ed. The G. V. (Son­ny) Mont­gomery VA Med­ical Cen­ter in Jack­son, Miss., fol­lows a close sec­ond, with 31 appli­ca­tions received so far.

Oth­er top-10 VA facil­i­ties, in order of appli­ca­tions received, are Dal­las and Hous­ton, both at 26; Atlanta, at 24; Augus­ta, Ga., Durham, N.C., and Wash­ing­ton, all at 23; San Anto­nio, at 21; and Den­ver, at 20.

Brook­ie described the steps VA is fol­low­ing to process appli­ca­tions and expe­dite deliv­ery of the new ben­e­fits and ser­vices.

With­in three busi­ness days of receiv­ing an ini­tial appli­ca­tion, a VA care­giv­er sup­port coor­di­na­tor con­tacts the vet­er­an and pri­ma­ry fam­i­ly care­giv­er to com­plete the appli­ca­tion and sched­ule care­giv­er train­ing.

A VA clin­i­cal team then coor­di­nates a clin­i­cal eli­gi­bil­i­ty assess­ment. This involves deter­min­ing what help the vet­er­an needs for every­day activ­i­ties such as eat­ing, bathing and groom­ing and whether the vet­er­an needs super­vi­sion or pro­tec­tion, Brook­ie explained.

If the vet­er­an meets clin­i­cal eli­gi­bil­i­ty cri­te­ria, VA then pro­vides pri­ma­ry fam­i­ly care­giv­er train­ing. Care­givers have three ways to com­plete the train­ing: in the class­room at a local VA med­ical cen­ter or com­mu­ni­ty loca­tion, online via a secu­ri­ty-pro­tect­ed web­site, or through self-study using a work­book and DVD.

VA has kicked off the train­ing, pro­vid­ing its first class­room ses­sions for 12 care­givers June 9 and 10 for 12 in Wash­ing­ton. Addi­tion­al class­room train­ing ten­ta­tive­ly is planned for Durham; Reno, Neva­da; and Atlanta, Brook­ie said.

In addi­tion, sev­er­al care­givers are com­plet­ing their train­ing through the self-study option, which Brook­ie said is expect­ed to be revised based on the input from class­room train­ing.

The online train­ing is sched­uled to be live by June 25, he said.

After the care­giv­er com­pletes the train­ing, a VA clin­i­cian will vis­it the home to ensure the vet­er­an and care­giv­er have what they need “to be safe and suc­cess­ful in a home set­ting,” Brook­ie said. Five care­givers are now await­ing their home vis­its, he said.

The home vis­it is the last require­ment before the fam­i­ly care­giv­er begins receiv­ing a month­ly stipend, based on the lev­el of assis­tance the vet­er­an required, Brook­ie said. At that point, care­givers with­out health insur­ance may also begin receiv­ing health insur­ance ben­e­fits through VA’s CHAMPVA pro­gram.

The stipend and health-insur­ance ben­e­fits will be retroac­tive to the ini­tial appli­ca­tion date, Brook­ie said.

Shin­se­ki laud­ed the new ben­e­fits and ser­vices, rec­og­niz­ing the sac­ri­fices care­givers make every day to help their loved ones who served in uni­form. “They are crit­i­cal part­ners with VA in the recov­ery and com­fort of ill and injured vet­er­ans, and they deserve our con­tin­ued train­ing, sup­port and grat­i­tude,” he said.

Appli­ca­tions for ben­e­fits can be processed by tele­phone through VA’s Care­giv­er Sup­port Line at 855–260-3274, in per­son at a VA med­ical cen­ters with a care­giv­er sup­port coor­di­na­tor, or by mail or online at http://www.caregiver.va.gov, using VA’s new care­giv­er appli­ca­tion, VA Form 1010-CG.

VA plans to report to Con­gress in the future on the fea­si­bil­i­ty of expand­ing the enhanced ser­vices to fam­i­ly care­givers of vet­er­ans of all eras, offi­cials said.

Although some of the enhanced ben­e­fits are avail­able to pre-9/11 fam­i­ly care­givers now, offi­cials said many of the oth­er new­ly enact­ed ben­e­fits will require new reg­u­la­tions to serve this pop­u­la­tion.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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