All About the VA Caregiver Program

(Last Updated On: December 31, 2018)

Family caregivers can receive a monthly check, health insurance and much more through the VA Caregiver program. If you’re taking care of a veteran, this program could change your life!

Who is Eligible for the VA Caregiver Program?

Eligible veterans must have sustained a serious injury that was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001.

Traumatic brain injuries, psychological traumas and mental health disorders qualify. In fact, a report by the GAO states that 92% of veterans participating in this program have a service-connected mental health condition, 63% have PTSD and 26% have a TBI.

In addition, the veteran must meet one of these requirements:

  1. The veteran is unable to perform one or more activities of daily living (ADLs) and therefore needs a caregiver to perform those activities.The ADLs are specifically limited to dressing, bathing, grooming, toileting, feeding oneself, mobility and frequent need of adjustment of a prosthetic/orthopedic appliance that cannot be done alone. Under the final rule in the Federal Register, instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) such as transportation, medication management, meal prep, housework, shopping, transportation and laundry were specifically disqualified.
  2. The veteran needs supervision or protection based on symptoms or residuals of a neurological impairment or injury.There are many reasons why a veteran may need supervision or protection, including seizures, blackouts, safety risks, danger of falling, difficulty with sleep regulation, delusions, hallucinations, memory problems, and self-regulation (such as being able to moderate moods, agitation and aggression). Veterans who have difficulty planning and organizing (such as sticking to a medication plan) also require supervision.

Eligible caregivers must be a relative or someone who resides with the veteran. The VA caregiver must be at least 18 years old, willing to complete required training and demonstrate an ability to assist the veteran with the required tasks.

It must also be determined that the veteran agrees to at-home care and that the care will be required for at least six continuous months.

What do caregivers receive?

Family caregivers receive a monthly stipend, travel expenses, health coverage, mental health services, counseling and caregiver training. The VA caregiver is also offered 30 days or more of respite care per year, during which the veteran can be watched over by someone else while the caregiver takes a break.

How can I apply for this program? What does it take to be approved?

Step 1: Click here to download the application.

Step 2: Once you submit the application, a caregiver support coordinator (CSC) will review the application and confirm that the veteran is enrolled in VA health care and has a documented service-connected disability.

Step 3: An intake appointment is conducted, which includes a medical assessment that determines how much care the veteran needs and verification of the caregiver’s eligibility to participate.

During this appointment, the medical assessor will determine the level of care that the veteran requires. There are three tiers of care, with Tier 3 being the highest degree of injury and need for care. The stipend, or payment, is determined by the tier level that the veteran is assigned. For example, the nationwide average for a Tier 3 payment was approximately $2,300/month in 2013.

Although this is when the stipend is calculated, the money will be paid retroactive to the application date.

Step 4: A meeting will be scheduled with the veteran and caregiver to review the services that they are eligible for. During this meeting, the caregiver and veteran will find out what stipend they qualify for. CHAMPVA coverage will also be discussed.

Step 5: The caregiver must complete the mandatory training, which is offered online or through a DVD/workbook curriculum. In some areas, a two-day training class may be available. The training covers ten subjects, including self-care, nutrition and managing medications.

Step 6: A home visit will be conducted to ensure that the caregiver has the physical capacity to provide the needed care and to verify the safety of the home. This visit is conducted by a medical professional (such as a registered nurse or physician’s assistant) or in collaboration with a mental health provider, depending on the type of veteran’s need.

Step 7: Once this is complete, the CSC will complete the final approval paperwork. If denied, veterans and caregivers may appeal through the VAMC director and VISN.

What happens after approval?

After approval, the stipend will begin to be paid via direct deposit near the 1st of every month. Other benefits, such as health care and respite care, will be explained in more detail by the local CSC.

The program requires quarterly home visits by clinical staff. These visits have several purposes, including:

  • Checking on the veteran’s well-being
  • Verifying that the caregiver still has the physical capacity to provide care
  • Checking the safety and adequacy of the home

After one year of satisfactory home visits, these visits can be conducted over the phone for veterans who do not face exceptional medical risks.

Any questions about this incredible program?
Let me know in the comments!

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