Family caregivers are often an essential part of health care for U.S. veterans. However, caring for a loved one in need can be physically, financially, and emotionally challenging. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides several benefits designed to give caregivers the support they need.
What Are VA Caregiver Benefits?
There are several VA benefits for mesothelioma victims who served in the U.S. military, including support for a veteran’s caregiver.
VA caregiver benefits are made up of the financial, health, educational, and emotional support services that the VA provides to qualifying veteran caregivers.
The VA’s caregiver support services include:
- VA Caregiver Support Line
- Peer Support Mentoring Program
- Building Better Caregivers online workshop
- Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (CAFC)
- REACH VA mentoring with a certified coach
The VA recognizes that taking care of caregivers is a huge part of taking care of veterans.
Importance of VA Benefits for Caregivers
To provide the best care for their loved ones, caregivers must also take care of themselves. However, caring for someone who is sick or injured can be physically, financially, and emotionally difficult.
Family caregivers often face challenges such as:
- Depression and isolation
- Emotional and physical stress
- Fear of asking for help
- Financial problems
- Lack of privacy or time to themselves
- Little time for relaxation or leisure
- Sleep deprivation
According to an AARP survey, 22% of caregivers report that their health has gotten worse as a result of caregiving.
VA benefits for caregivers focus on educating and assisting caregivers in dealing with these challenges.
Who Is Eligible for VA Caregiver Benefits?
Most honorably discharged veterans qualify for some VA caregiver benefits.
However, to receive benefits through the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), the VA’s most generous caretaker program, both the caretaker and veteran must meet certain requirements.
The primary caretaker must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Turn in the Application for Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers Program (VA Form 10-10CG)
- Agree to perform personal care services for the veteran defined in a plan of care
- Be a member of the veteran’s family
- If not related to the veteran, live with the veteran or plan to live with them if designated as the primary caretaker
- Complete a caregiver training program
The veteran must:
- Be enrolled in a VA healthcare program
- Have a serious physical or mental injury
- Have received or worsened the injury from their active-duty service
- Have received or worsened the injury on or after September 11, 2001
- Need at least 6 months of constant supervision or help to perform basic everyday functions due to their injury
The VA provides benefits for an eligible veteran’s main caregiver and up to 2 secondary caregivers. The program is hoping to expand its offerings to caregivers looking after veterans who served at any time.
VA Benefits for Spouse Caregiver
The VA provides spouses of veterans several benefits regardless of caregiver status.
VA benefits for spouse caregivers include:
- Health care services: Spouse caregivers may qualify for health care services through VA programs such as TRICARE, The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA), and some pharmacy benefits.
- Education and training services: Spouse caregivers and a veteran’s dependent children may qualify for help paying for school or job training through the VA Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program or the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship.
- Financial programs: The VA offers life insurance options, claims, and beneficiary assistance to spouses and dependent children of veterans.
- Fisher House Program: Many mesothelioma veterans need to travel to a VA medical center for treatment. When they do, family members and caregivers are able to stay for free at a Fisher House within walking distance of the treatment facility.
VA Family Caregiver Benefits
Family caregivers are individuals who care for an ill or disabled loved one at home. Although family caregivers are usually relatives, someone who lives with a veteran while providing care may qualify as a family caregiver.
VA family caregiver benefits may include:
- Health care benefits: PCAFC provides health care benefits for qualified caregivers.
- Education: The VA provides free caregiving educational materials and training through PCAFC. They also offer a mentorship program, the Building Better Caregivers workshop, and the REACH VA coaching program.
- Emotional support: The VA provides a number of programs designed to help caregivers deal with the emotional challenges of looking after a loved one. PCAFC provides mental health services and counseling.
- Financial support: VA caregiver support programs may provide free services and medical supplies that can help caregivers financially. They also created Caring for Your Finances, a video series that assists caregivers with finance-related issues. Mesothelioma VA disability claims are often higher for veterans who need a caregiver.
Types of VA Caregiver Benefits
The VA’s Caregiver Support Program offers several resources, including training, education, and multiple tools to help caregivers succeed.
General caregiver support services are available to those who care for veterans who served in any era.
VA Caregiver Support Line
Calling the VA Caregiver Support Line puts caregivers in touch with licensed professionals who can provide several means of support.
VA Caregiver Support Line professionals:
- Connect caregivers to other VA services
- Connect caregivers to a Caregiver Support Coordinator at the nearest VA medical center
- Simply listen with compassion to any hardships a caregiver is struggling with
- Provide monthly caregiver education groups over the phone
The VA’s peer-support mentoring program trains and connects caregiver mentors to mentees looking for personal guidance and support with caregiving.
Participating caregivers commit to communicating with each other over email, phone, or by mail for at least 6 months.
The VA also offers a one-time connection with a mentor through their Compassionate Connections Program for caregivers who only want brief support.
Mental Health Services
The VA provides a number of mental health services that caregivers of veterans can access.
Mental health VA services available to caretakers include:
- VA Caregiver Support Program: A variety of training, education, and tools specifically designed to help veteran caregivers.
- Coaching Into Care: Provides guidance for the family and friends of a veteran who is reluctant to reach out for mental health support.
- Real Warriors: Provides information and resources about psychological health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injury.
- Veterans Crisis Line: Connects veterans, service members in crisis, and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text.
- War Vet Call Center: A confidential call center where combat veterans and their families can call to talk about any civilian readjustment challenges or anything about their military experience.
- Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC): Provides VA services, resources, and anonymous chat support to women veterans, their families, and caregivers.
The VA Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program provides medical, social, vocational, and rehabilitation therapies to eligible alcohol and drug dependent Veterans.
The VA offers health care benefits through CHAMPVA, or the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans and their families who don’t qualify for TRICARE (the Department of Defense’s health care program for active-duty and retired service members and their families) may be able to get health insurance through CHAMPVA.
Through this program, the VA covers the cost of some health care services and medical supplies.
The VA has several additional in-home and support services.
These services include:
- Adult Day Health Care Centers: These centers provide a safe place for caretakers to bring veterans who spend most of their time at home. Here, veterans can participate in activities with peers while giving caretakers a little free time.
- Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC): If a veteran is unable to travel, HBPC can provide regular health care at home. The program also provides physical rehabilitation, mental health care, social work, and VA and community service referrals.
- Home Hospice Care: This service provides 24/7 suffering relief and symptom control for veterans with less than 6 months to live. They also provide grief counseling to caretakers.
- Homemaker and Home Health Aides: For caretakers who need extra help assisting a loved one with daily needs such as bathing and dressing, the VA provides trained home health aides who are supervised by a registered nurse.
- Home Telehealth: Veteran caretakers who live far away from a VA medical center can use the Home Telehealth program to connect them with a care coordinator over the phone, computer, or another communication device. They can receive education, training, and access to distance support groups.
- Respite Care: Many caregivers experience burnout from their responsibilities. Through the VA, caregivers may receive up to 30 days a year to relax and regain their energy while their loved one is looked after at home or at a care center.
- Skilled Home Care: Similar to HBPC, this service provides home-based care for a veteran from a licensed non-VA medical professional.
The VA also provides home care supplies and equipment that veterans may need to maintain their health and quality of life.
How to Receive VA Caregiver Benefits
The VA provides several programs to help caregivers, however, caregivers must apply to access most of them.
To receive benefits, caregivers must:
- Fill out an application for PCAFC (VA Form 10-10CG)
- Provide veteran, self-identification, and health coverage information for both the caregiver and the veteran
- Sign and date the form, along with the qualifying veteran
- Mail the form and any supporting documents to PCAFC or apply in person by bringing the application to their local VA caregiver support coordinator
According to a study by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), about 43.5 million Americans provide unpaid care to a loved one in need. 25% of them dedicate over 41 hours a week to caregiving.
Applying for benefits is one more task that caregivers may have to deal with — one that can be complicated and confusing. However, it is vital that caregivers maintain their own wellbeing along with that of their loved ones.
This is not something you have to do alone. Reach out to our team today for help filing for Mesothelioma VA Benefits.