What’s a Caregiver?
A caregiver is a very crucial and active person in the lives of those they care for. Sometimes it can be a spouse, child, other family member or close friend. A person can be the caregiver to an individual without even realizing it.
Who exactly are caregivers? While there are paid, professional caregivers, most of them end up being unpaid from family, friends, or even neighbors. Caregivers have a variety of “jobs,” they can be anyone who:
Purchases groceries, cooks, does laundry, or cleans for someone who can’t do it themself.
Assists someone in getting dressed, showering
Helps with scheduling medical appointments, driving them to the doctor or drug store, or administering medical treatments or procedures like medicine, injections, or physical therapy
Is the designated “on-call” person for issues and problems
Doing these tasks “now and then” can be easy for someone to manage, but when the tasks become weekly or even daily, the time adds up.
Compensation for Caregivers of Eligible Veterans
Caregivers dedicate almost all their free time to ensuring their loved one gets what they need, with sometimes little to nothing in return for themselves. Financial hardships can sometimes make it difficult for a veteran to pay their caregiver, and since they are spending most of their free time caring for them, they have little time or energy left over for other employment. This is why the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has put some provisions in place to offer VA benefits for the family caregiver of an eligible veteran.
Who Is Eligible for Compensation?
If the veteran is qualified for or already receiving benefits through the VA and there is a designated primary family caregiver, that caregiver could be eligible for benefits through the VA as well. Ultimately, the veteran’s Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) at an assigned VA Medical Center will make the final decision after an evaluation.
Caregiver Benefits and Support Available Through the VA
There is a general support resource hub for caregivers. Here, they can get training, join a peer to peer support program, enlist in caregiver workshops, and utilize support groups offered through VA. This is called The Program of General Caregiver Support Services. The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) provides financial support benefits to caregivers that meet specific criteria established by the VA.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
Any veteran receiving care that wishes their caregiver receive financial assistance from the VA must meet specific qualifications. Those requirements are:
- The veteran has a severe injury (this includes brain injury, psychological trauma, or other mental disorder) that was incurred or made worse by active-duty on or after September 11th, 2001
- The veteran needs personal care because they cannot perform one or more activities required in daily life or needs supervision or protection based on symptoms of lasting damage or injury.
The Mission Act
In March of 2020, the Mission Act was passed on behalf of veterans and their caregivers. The Mission Act aims to expand and solidify the current program to positively affect the lives of veterans and the person who cares for them.
More specifically, it will give more family caregivers access to the benefits of the PCAFC. Before the Mission Act, the PCAFC was only available to veterans injured in the line of duty on or after September 11th, 2001, with the new act, caregivers of eligible veterans from ALL eras may qualify.
How a Caregiver Can Enroll for VA Benefits
The process of enrolling doesn’t have to be complicated. Those interested in applying for the PCAFC can download the appropriate VA form here, fill it out, and then mail the form and any required supporting documents to:
- Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Assistance for Family Caregivers
Health Eligibility Center
2957 Clairmont Road NE, Ste 200
Atlanta, GA 30329-1647
You can also go to your local VA medical center and apply in person with the caregiver support coordinator who can walk you through all of it.
What VA Benefits Will My Caregiver Get?
A veteran qualifies for care based on the degree to which they cannot perform a number of activities necessary for day to day life, or the degree to which the veteran may need supervision. Based on symptoms of neurological injury or other illness. Caregivers of eligible veterans can receive compensation in the form of:
- Healthcare insurance
- Mental health services and counseling
- Monthly stipend
- Respite care
- Travel and lodging expenses
- VA Caregiver training
The VA offers benefits based on the number of hours the caregiver helps out each week. There are tiers that the caregiver will fall into based on that. The high tier receives maximum benefits and consists of over 40 hours of work each week. Medium tier works 25 hours a week or less, with low tier working less than 10 hours a week.
The Department of Veterans Affairs will have more information on specific stipend amounts and other information.