- The Washington Times
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am a 60 percent disabled vet. My disability comes from serving in Vietnam and having prostate cancer. I suffered a stroke two years ago. I was wondering if there is any validity to the rumor about some sort of caregiver compensation law. I would very much appreciate any help you can give me on this matter.

Theodis J. USAF (Retired)

Dear Theodis:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently published the interim final rule for implementing the Family Caregiver Program of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act 2010. This new rule will provide additional support to eligible post-9/11 veterans who elect to receive their care in a home setting from a primary family caregiver.

VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki was quoted as saying, “We, at VA, know that every day is a challenge for our most seriously injured veterans and their family caregivers. I know many veterans and their family caregivers have been waiting anxiously for this day and I urge them to get their applications in as soon as possible so they can receive the additional support they have earned.”

On May 9, staff in VA’s Office of Care Management and Social Work opened the application process for eligible post-9/11 veterans and service members to designate their family caregivers.

Additional services for primary family caregivers of eligible post-9/11 veterans and service members include a stipend, mental health services and access to health care insurance, if they are not already entitled to care or services under a health care plan. Comprehensive caregiver training and medical support are other key components of this program. The program builds on the foundation of caregiver support now provided at VA and reflects what families and clinicians have long known; that family caregivers in a home environment can enhance the health and well-being of veterans under VA care.

Veterans may download a copy of the family caregiver program application (VA CG 10-10) at www.caregiver.va.gov. The application enables the veteran to designate a primary family caregiver and secondary family caregivers if needed. Caregiver Support Coordinators are stationed at every VA medical center and via phone at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) to assist veterans and their family caregivers with the application process.

“Providing support to family caregivers, who sacrifice so much to allow veterans to remain at home surrounded by their loved ones, is very important to us at VA. We offer a range of caregiver support services including training, counseling and respite care to ensure that our caregivers have the tools and support they need to continue in their care giving role,” said Deborah Amdur, VA’s chief consultant for Care Management and Social Work.

“We appreciate the patience, support and assistance we have received from veterans, veterans service organizations, and the greater caregiver community in shaping this program and bringing this new VA program to our wounded warriors and their dedicated family caregivers,” she said.

Caregivers for veterans of all eras are eligible for respite care, education and training on what it means to be a caregiver, how to best meet the veteran’s care needs, and the importance of self-care when in a care-giving role. The full range of VA services already provided to caregivers will continue, and local Caregiver Support Coordinators at each VA medical center are available to assist family caregivers in identifying benefits and services they may be eligible for.

The Caregiver Support Coordinators are well versed in VA programs and also have information about other local public, private and non-profit agency support services that are available to support veterans and their family caregivers at home.

VA programs for veterans and their family caregivers include:

• In-Home and Community Based Care: This includes skilled home health care, homemaker home health aide services, community adult day health care and home-based primary care.

• Respite Care: Designed to relieve the family caregiver from the constant challenge of caring for a chronically ill or disabled veteran at home, respite services can include in-home care, a short stay in one of VA’s community living centers or an environment designed for adult day health care.

• Caregiver education and training programs: VA currently provides multiple training opportunities which include pre-discharge care instruction and specialized caregiver programs in multiple severe traumas such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Spinal Cord Injury/Disorders, and Blind Rehabilitation. VA has a family caregiver assistance healthy living center on My HealtheVet, www.myhealth.va.gov, as well as caregiver information on the VA’s main Web page health site; both websites include information on VA and community resources and caregiver health and wellness.

• Caregiver support groups and other services: family caregiver support groups, offered in a face-to-face setting or on the telephone, provide emotional and peer support, and information. Family caregiver services include family counseling, spiritual and pastoral care, family leisure and recreational activities and temporary lodging in Fisher Houses.

• Other services: VA provides durable medical equipment and prosthetic and sensory aides to improve function, financial assistance with home modification to improve access and mobility, and transportation assistance for some veterans to and from medical appointments.

In addition as of, May 9, leaders of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Easter Seals, the nation’s leading nonprofit disability services provider, have announced a partnership to provide training for family caregivers of seriously-injured post-9/11 veterans who choose to receive their care at home.

On the same day, May 9, began accepting applications from eligible post-9/11 veterans for caregiver services offered under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. Applications will designate a post-9/11 veteran’s family caregiver who will receive training and benefits. VA encourages all eligible Veterans and Family Caregivers to sign up immediately at www.caregiver.va.gov or by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387). Caregiver support coordinators will be available at each of 152 VA medical centers to guide veterans and family caregivers through the application process. Stipend payments for caregivers will be backdated to the day the applications are submitted.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

• Sgt. Shaft can be reached at .

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