Family caregivers are an increasingly common occurrence, with many giving up careers to take care of aging loved ones. Some veterans, however, are still young, but dependent on a family member or other loved one to care for them. A recent article from Task & Purpose highlights the benefits for these caregivers that many military families not know.
Passed in 2010, the “Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act” aimed to provide assistance to veterans of post-9/11 fighting and the caregivers regularly helping them. Of the estimated 5.5 million caregivers of veterans, roughly 1.2 million care for a veteran of post-9/11 conflict, but for any caregiver, there is a significant mental and physical burden. In some cases, there is also a significant financial burden.
The Act aims to come alongside caregivers of eligible veterans to provide a wide array of services. These services range from peer or professional support to a monthly stipend, reimbursed travel expenses and even caregiver training. A patient-aligned care team is in charge of determining the stipend amount, once awarded, by evaluating the eligible veteran and determining their care needs.
This care team reviews the weekly hours needed to care for an eligible veteran and then classify each veteran within one of three tiers. Veterans requiring 40 hours of care per week are put in the highest tier, those with a maximum of 25 hours in the middle tier and those needing a maximum of 10 hours are put in the lowest tier.
If eligible, veterans may also receive health insurance (if it was previously denied them) as well as mental health services. For caregivers, there is respite care to help with the mental and physical drain of day-in and day-out care as well as training from Easter Seals, an advocacy group supporting those with disabilities and their families. Many receiving these benefits, however, find the most comfort in support groups, connecting with those experiencing similar difficulties.
While the Department of Veterans Affairs has an online checklist to help caregivers determine their eligibility, many recommend contacting advocacy groups instead. Groups such as the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which connects veterans and their loved ones to services, can provide additional information and connect those who are eligible to these services.
Reference: Task & Purpose (March 22, 2016) “The VA Program for Veteran Caregivers You May Not Know About”