The Department of Veterans Affairs has long supported family caregivers as vital partners in providing care worthy of the sacrifices by America's veterans and servicemembers. Each VA medical center has a caregiver support coordinator (CSC) who provides caregiver activities and serves as a resource expert for veterans, their families and VA providers. Several programs available for veteran caregivers include:
In-home and community-based care. 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 burden of caring for a chronically ill or disabled veteran at home. Services can include in-home care, a short stay in an institutional setting or adult day health care.
Caregiver education and training programs. VA currently provides multiple training opportunities that include pre-discharge care instruction and specialized caregiver programs for multiple severe traumas such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury/disorders and blind rehabilitation. VA's caregiver web site, www.caregiver.va.gov, provides tools, resources and information to family caregivers.
Family support services. These support groups can be conducted face-to-face or via telephone. They include family counseling, spiritual and pastoral care, family leisure and recreational activities, and temporary lodging in Fisher Houses.
Travel. VA's Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program entitles the designated caregiver to beneficiary travel benefits. These benefits include
Transportation, lodging and subsistence for period of caregiver training.
Transportation, lodging and subsistence while traveling as a veteran's attendant to and from VA health-care facilities, as well as for the duration of care at VA or VA- authorized facilities.
Mileage or common carrier transport.
Lodging and/or subsistence at 50 percent of local federal employee rates.
Other benefits. VA provides durable medical equipment and prosthetic and sensory aides to improve function and financial assistance with home modification to improve access and mobility, and transportation assistance for some veterans to and from medical appointments.
On May 5, 2010, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 was signed into law. Title I of the act allows VA to provide unprecedented benefits to eligible caregivers (a parent, spouse, child, step-family member, extended family member or an individual who lives with the veteran but is not a family member). The law includes provisions that help provide support for the caregivers of seriously injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
New services provided by the law include:
Monthly stipend based on the personal care needs of the veteran.
Travel expenses, including lodging and per-diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care.
Access to health-care insurance through Civilian Health and Medical Program of VA if the caregiver is not already entitled to care or services under a health plan.
Mental health services and counseling.
Comprehensive VA caregiver training.
Appropriate care-giving instruction and training.