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VA Seeks Input on Caregiver Benefits

Senior Woman Comforting Man With Depression At Home

The VA is looking for feedback on how to better its caregiver assistance program, including comment on who should qualify and the best way to define "necessary care" for veterans, after a law passed early this year ordered the program expanded to more users.

The Caregiver Support Program

The Department of Veterans Affairs caregiver support program currently offers family caregivers of certain disabled veterans assistance in the form of training on how to provide care, respite care, counseling, travel to attend caregiver training, a monthly cash stipend and more.

Right now the program is only open to family members caring for post-9/11 veterans who have a serious injury like traumatic brain injury (TBI), psychological trauma, or other mental disorder which was the result of military service.

Expansion of Caregiver Program

The caregiver program was ordered expanded by the VA Mission Act, which became law this year, and is set to occur in two phases.

First, the program will expand family caregiver benefits to those caring for veterans with a serious injury like TBI, psychological trauma, or other mental disorder which was the result of military service and happened before May 7, 1975.

That phase will kick-in after the VA certifies to Congress that it has updated its computer systems to be able to handle the processing of new caregiver benefits.

The second expansion phase, set to start two years after phase one, will add to the program eligibility the family of veterans of any era.

Definition of Caregiver Expanded

But the Mission Act did not just expand which veterans qualify for the benefit -- it also expanded the types of injuries that must exist for the caregiver program to be used.

Under the old rules for a family member to be eligible as a caregiver, the veteran had to be:

  1. Unable to perform one or more of the activities of daily living.
  2. In need of supervision or protection due to their neurological or other impairment or injury.
  3. In need of care due to other serious injury.

The new law added to the list of qualifying veteran conditions residual injuries as well as the need for "extensive instruction or supervision" for a veteran to complete their daily activities

For example, a veteran who suffered a TBI but also suffered an eye injury that makes it impossible for him to drive would now qualify as in need of a family caregiver. Or if a veteran has a cognitive impairment and can't be trusted around a stove, he or she would qualify for caregiver services under the new rules.

The Mission Act also adds financial and legal services as qualifying caregiver services. For example, if an injured veteran is unable to manage their money and a family member has to pay the bills, sign paperwork or do other similar tasks, that person could possibly qualify as a family caregiver.

VA Wants Help Determining New Rules

But to develop how those expansions should be applied, the VA must create new policies. And they are looking to the public, including current caregivers, to weigh-in.

The posting in the Federal Register contains a extensive list of questions the VA wants help answering as they develop those new rules. Commenting is open through Dec. 12.

How to Submit Your Comments

Written comments may be submitted through Regulations.gov; by mail or hand delivery to the Director, Office of Regulation Policy and Management (00REG), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Room 1063B, Washington, DC 20420; or by fax to (202) 273-9026.

Comments should indicate that they are submitted in response to "Notice of Request for Information on the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC)."

Remember, you only have until December 12 to submit your comments. More information about the VA Caregiver Support Program and a link to submit comments is available at www.caregiver.va.gov.

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