FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

VA Caregiver Program



If you're caring for a Veteran who has served since September 11, 2001, you may be
eligible for the VA's new Caregiver Program.  The VA opened the application process on
May 9, 2011, but unfortunately MANY families that qualify still haven't applied.

Our mission at FamilyOfaVet.com (as always) is to give you plain language, real world
information about this new VA benefit and make sure you know (1) who qualifies, (2) what
to do if you qualify, (3) what happens after you apply, and (4) what the benefits are.

So, let's get started!!

WHO QUALIFIES

To qualify, the veteran you are caring for must meet the following criteria:

  1. Served since September 11, 2001
  2. Been seriously injured (physically *OR* mentally, including PTSD and TBI) in the line
    of duty since 9/11/01 (but this doesn't have to include injuries sustained in
    combat)    
  3. Need help because they can't perform one or more activities of daily living on their
    own *OR* they need supervision or protection because of their injuries.  These can
    include things like: Dressing, Grooming, Bathing, Feeding, Seizures, Difficulty with
    Planning or Organizing, Being at Risk for Wandering or Getting Lost, Danger of
    Falling, Sleep Problems, Delusions, Hallucinations, Memory Problems, Help
    Regulating Mood or Keeping Mood Stable.
  4. Need at least 6 months of assistance from their caregiver.
  5. Must be enrolled or enroll in the VA health services.
  6. Be out of the military or have a date for medical discharge.

These are the basic criteria.  There are a few other questions that you will go over with
your VA Caregiver Support Coordinator (someone you'll meet in the next step!).

WHAT TO DO IF YOU QUALIFY

If you qualify (or think you might... because the process is easy enough that you should
take this step even if you
think you qualify.  DO NOT be scared or intimidated!  It is
SERIOUSLY the easiest, most painless VA process you'll ever go through and the worst
case scenario is they tell you, "No") you have a few options for how to proceed.

#1 - Skip right to talking to a "Live" person :)

Go to the VA page for Post 9/11 Caregivers (
CLICK HERE) and use the "Find Your Local
Caregiver Support Coordinator" function on the right hand side of the page.  This will give
you the number for your local Caregiver Support Coordinator.  Call them, tell them you'd
like to apply for the program, and they'll help you take it from there!

#2 - Get your stuff ready to go anytime day or night

If you're up in the middle of the night and want to get started, you can go to the VA
Caregiver website, answer a few questions, and download an application.  
CLICK HERE
TO GET STARTED.  After you have the (super short!) form filled out, you can mail it to the
address provided or hand carry it to your local VA Medical Center (to the Caregiver
Support Coordinator you found in step #1!).

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU APPLY

After you get your application submitted, the Caregiver Support Coordinator for your area
will contact you.  The Coordinator will ask you some questions and explain the next part of
the process to you.

Next, someone from the office of your Veteran's Primary Care Physician will contact you
and ask you a series of questions about what you do as a caregiver.  If your not sure
about any of the questions, feel free to ask questions, explain what you do for your
veteran, and help the person you're talking to fully understand your role in your veteran's
life.  This *IS NOT* the time to play "super woman" and try to down play the difficulties your
family is faced with.  Each answer is scored and the total determines how many hours per
week you are paid for.  Be honest.  

I read a blog post recently from a caregiver who clearly could have received the top (40
hours per week) pay rate but had instead qualified at the middle rate.  She was incredibly
disappointed and angry (understandably).  I couldn't help but wonder though if she had
fallen into "super woman" mode (something most caregivers I know are prone to) and
downplayed her role in caring for her veteran during this crucial step.

If you've qualified after the last step, the next step in the process is to complete your
caregiver training.  Right now, this is a manual your receive in the mail.  Depending on how
quickly you read (and how much quiet time you can find) you should be able to complete it
in 3 hours or less.  At the end, you'll fill out a "Final Assessment" that you have to send in
by fax, e-mail or mail.  As soon as your assessment in graded and your Caregiver Support
Coordinator receives verification that you passed, a home visit will be scheduled.  

Sometime very soon training will also be offered online and in classrooms around the
country.

The home visit is the part that freaks most caregivers out.  They worry about being
judged... about being criticized... about being told they're not doing anything right.  Don't
let yourself head down that road.  The home visit isn't about any of that.  It's about finding
out what you need, about what can be done to help your veteran, and about finding out
more about your Veteran's care.

This is a GREAT opportunity to talk to the home visit nurse about anything in your home
that is giving your Veteran difficulty.  For example, I found out that the VA could help add
railings to our front steps (a location where my dear husband has fallen several times).  
Take time to make a list beforehand so you're ready (and so you don't forget anything!!).

After all of this is done, you'll find out how many hours you'll be paid for, find out more
about the benefits of the program, receive some forms to fill out, etc.  Things move VERY
quickly at this point.  Many people I know of have even received their first pay (or back
pay) within 7 - 10 days once their final paperwork is in.

WHAT THE BENEFITS ARE

If you are approved as a caregiver under this program, you are entitled to the following
benefits:

  • Monthly stipend
  • Travel expenses (including lodging and per diem when your Veteran has to travel
    for medical care)
  • Access to health care insurance through ChampVA (if the Caregiver is not already
    entitled to care or services under a health care plan)
  • Mental health services and counseling
  • Comprehensive VA Caregiver training provided by Easter Seals
  • Respite care (not less than 30 days per year)

FOR MORE INFORMATION

We recently had the privilege of interviewing two VA Caregiver Support Coordinators (and
a few caregivers who are participating in the program) on VOW Talk Radio.  It was an
awesome show that answered many of the questions we had received from site visitors,
Facebook friends, and show listeners.

You can listen to the archived version of the show below.  For a quick summary of the
questions covered,
CLICK HERE.
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