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According to studies, caregivers of veterans have a mean age of 70 years; that’s a lot to take on so late in life, and yet family members are still rising to the challenge for their loved ones. It is also believed that as many as 5.5 million Americans are currently caring for a veteran.
Aside from the obvious toll that it takes on a person to provide physical, mental, and emotional support for their loved ones, there are more practical problems that arise. For example, caregivers may need to alter their work schedule, or even give up their career altogether, meaning that there is a direct financial impact on the household. Where a mortgage or rent needs to be kept up with, this loss of income could also have a significant impact on the housing situation.
There are government programs designed to financially aid carers of veterans and currently, it is thought that as much as $5.9 billion is being spent annually to support these people.
Issues Faced by Caregivers of Veterans
Those caring for our veterans are usually family members or close friends meaning that these people may not have any previous experience in this kind of work. We use the term work very lightly as caregivers are often not compensated for their time and may need to give up their careers in order to provide the right level of care for their loved one. This can mean a significant drop in income which puts them under enormous financial strain. Many caregivers struggle to pay their housing costs and meet their day-to-day financial needs.
Moreover, the emotional and mental strain of taking care of a veteran can take its toll and recent research has demonstrated that caregivers may suffer with co-existing PTSD. In addition to this, caregivers may find it very difficult to practice self-care and as a direct result of this, they become exhausted and may end up with caregiver burnout.
Since many veterans require constant care, this means that the caregiver gets very little time for themselves. It is essential for these people to be able to take a break and recuperate before continuing with caring for their loved one. Furthermore, a lot of the caregivers of post 9/11 veterans are far younger and while the average age of a carer is 62.2, many younger caregivers are struggling to maintain balance in their lives.
Benefits for Veterans & Family Caregivers
The financial, emotional, and practical hit that caregivers and veterans can take is shockingly high but there are several benefits that aim to provide relief from these issues and give veterans and their caregivers a better quality of life.
Aid & Attendance and Housebound
There are three main types of VA pensions. While healthy veterans over the age of 65 can claim a basic pension, the other two types are aimed at people who may be more vulnerable and have greater needs.
For example, the Aid and Attendance pension is for veterans over the age of 65 who may be struggling to cope with day-to-day activities of living. To qualify for this benefit, you must rely on the aid of another person for your day-to-day needs such as feeding, bathing, personal care, medication, and so forth. You will also qualify if you are bedbound or in permanent residential home care. Veterans with loss of sight may also be entitled to these benefits but must have corrected vision of at least 5/200.
The Housebound pension is paid to veterans who are considered to be 100% disabled to the point that they are unable to leave their home. In this case, the disability does not need to be a direct result of their service. Both the Housebound and Aid and Attendance pensions are paid on top of a basic pension.
There are a few limitations as to who can apply. For example, applicants must have served at least one day in a war and must have had at least 90 days of overall military service. They must meet the specified financial criteria and must have doctor’s orders detailing the type of assistive care they require. Finally, you must have received an honorable or general discharge from service.
Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC)
In order to qualify for PCAFC, you must have sustained an injury during service, which can include serious illness, before May 7, 1975, or on or after September 11, 2001. There are various things that you may be offered by the organization including financial stipend, health insurance, education, and other resources.
You will need to be in need of personal care assistance that lasts longer than six months to qualify.
Your primary caregiver may also be able to receive benefits but must be over the age of 18 and must be a family member living with the veteran. They will need to undergo caregiver training and must undergo an official assessment by the VA in order to become an official caregiver.
Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL)
SCAADL is a monthly compensation that is awarded to veterans who have sustained a catastrophic illness or injury. It is designed to ease the problems associated with the loss of earnings of a primary caregiver.
To qualify, you must have been assessed by a VA or Military Department doctor who has determined that your injury or illness requires the help of another person to perform day-to-day tasks. It is also expected that, without receipt of this compensation that the applicant would require inpatient care.
The amount that you will receive depends on the level of care you require, and this is measured in hours per week.
Specially Adaptive Housing Grant (SAH)
If you are in need of an adapted home owing to issues that have arisen as a result of a service-connected injury then you may be eligible for the SAH grant. This grant provides financial support in both purchasing an adapted home or building and remodeling existing properties.
To qualify, you must have received a doctor’s note from a VA physician who will be required to outline the specific need for the adaptations. If you do not own the home but are performing adaptations, you must have the consent of the homeowner.
It is important to keep in mind that this benefit is only available to a maximum of 120 people per year who may have lost a limb on or after 9/11/2001. However, if you apply one year and do not receive the grant, you may still be able to receive assistance the following year.
Special Home Adaptation (SHA)
There are several types of grants available to disabled people to go towards adapting a property. If you are a senior, we would advise looking into the HISA grant as this is not limited to service-connected injuries.
However, if you have a service-connected injury such as the loss of the use of the hands, severe burns, or respiratory injuries, you may be able to qualify for the Special Home Adaptation (SHA) grant. You or one of your family members must currently own the property to be adapted, and you may be awarded up to $20,215 towards the work.
VA Home Loans
Whether you are an ex-serviceman or woman or are the spouse of a veteran, you may be eligible for a VA home loan, which will help you to become a homeowner without the need for a downpayment. Moreover, the closing costs associated with buying a home are reduced, and you’ll get lower interest rates. In addition to this, there is no need for private mortgage insurance.
To qualify for one of these home loans, you must have at least 90 days of service, with at least 30 of those days having been served consecutively. To obtain a personal loan, the house you are purchasing must be for yourself or a spouse or child, and you must have suitable credit as well as the means to pay the loan back.
Assistance with Delinquent Home Loans
Loss of income for veterans and their caregivers is a very real problem, and this can often result in missed mortgage payments. If you do not keep up with these payments, you may find your house being foreclosed upon. To avoid this, the Assistance with Delinquent Home Loans benefit may be suitable.
For people with a VA mortgage loan, financial advice and assistance are available. You will be assigned a VA loan technician who will correspond with your mortgage provider to discuss payment options. There are other options, including the sale of the property, and your assigned technician will provide you with the most appropriate advice.
In addition to this advice, your technician may be able to negotiate advantages with your mortgage provider, such as lower interest rates and preventing eviction. It is essential to get in touch with a technician as soon as you begin experiencing financial difficulties to avoid the situation getting worse.
Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Rides
Since there is no longer a federal program that provides transport assistance to veterans, the Disabled American Veterans Rides organization was set up. It provides transportation to VA medical premises for veterans all over the country. However, you should keep in mind that this is a non-profit that is run by volunteers, so there may not always be available transport in your area.
You can contact your local hospital service coordinator to find out more about what is available in your area and to arrange transportation.
Veterans Transportation Program (VTP)
There are several different services that operate under the VTP and these provide either free or very low-cost transport for veterans to VA facilities.
The Veterans Transportation Program gives individuals a safe and reliable mode of transport to their VA health care facility and is partnered with a series of non-profit organizations and other federal and state groups.
The Highly Rural Transportation Grant can offer up to $50,000 to go towards transport for veterans who live in very rural areas. To qualify, your county must have fewer than 7 people per square mile.
Beneficiary Travel provides veterans with reimbursements for their travel costs to VA health care facilities. In addition to this, some people may be able to benefit from pre-approved transport and special modes of transport.
Veterans Transportation Service (VTS)
The Veterans Transportation Service provides various ways to aid individuals in making their way to VA health care facilities. These include the previously mentioned Beneficiary Travel and Highly Rural Transportation grants.
The program runs nationwide. To find out more, you will need to select your state from the VA website, which will provide you with the relevant contact details of your state office. The service is available to veterans who are visually impaired, immobilized, elderly, or injured and places a focus on those living in more remote areas.
Caregiving Support & Education
Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS)
For caregivers of veterans who have served in any era and whose injury is not necessarily service-connected, the PGCSS provides a variety of resources, education, and other types of support. There are opportunities to access training for various things such as clinical support, and you may access training courses online, over the phone, or in person.
The PGCSS also has ‘Annie’ which is a text-based support and education system and also offers suicide prevention tools and other useful resources. You may also be able to access community and home support for various aspects of day-to-day care.
You will need to enroll, but this is quick and simple and can be done over the telephone. There is no formal enrollment, and everything is pressure-free.
Respite Care for Veterans & Caregivers
Did you know that, as a caregiver to a veteran, you are entitled to up to 30 days of respite every year? Not taking advantage of this can result in wearing yourself out and being unable to provide the right care for your loved one. There are several different types of respite care, including home help and adult daycare centers, among others.
Home Respite Care
Home respite care involves an assistant coming to the home of the veteran to provide care in place of the caregiver. This allows the family member to run other errands or simply take a break and relax.
This service is provided for all veterans that are enrolled in the VA, but there are some other eligibility criteria that must be met. For example, the veteran must have a chronic illness or disability that means they require the assistance of a caregiver for day-to-day tasks. There may also be some financial limitations with veterans on lower incomes taking priority but this will vary according to location and personal circumstances and isn’t considered one of the main criteria.
Generally speaking, veterans must have enrolled in the military after 9/7/1980 and must have served for at least 24 months and received an honorable discharge. There are a few exceptions to the 24-month rule, which include being released due to hardship and treatment of a service-connected injury.
Nursing Home Respite Care
There are many facilities around the country that provide respite care for veterans to give their caregivers a break. Your location will depend on what you are able to access, but nursing home care gives you the peace of mind that your loved one will be in professional and capable hands.
Run by the VA, nursing home respite care is available for up to 30 days each year and must be booked in advance. This type of support is given to veterans who need assistance in achieving day-to-day tasks such as dressing, feeding, and personal care.
Home Based Primary Care (HBPC)
If a veteran is homebound, home-based primary care can provide a professional to come to the house and help with primary care needs.
There are a variety of services that include nursing, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapies, for which the veteran is unable to attend appointments outside of the home. Other services may include help with managing medication and mental health care.
ARCH National Respite Network
If you are unsure about what respite care is available in your area, ARCH National Respite Network is on hand to help you. They provide resources and information to help you find the most appropriate respite care in your area. They are also able to assist where crisis services are needed for all kinds of people. Their aim is to connect you with quality services and be a voice for those in need of respite care.
Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) Centers
ADHC centers provide respite care giving caregivers some much-needed time to themselves. However, these programs are aimed at giving the veteran some relief too by engaging them in activities and social situations with other veterans.
The centers are staffed with professional team members who are able to assess the individual needs of each person and provide suitable rehabilitation and care. This allows veterans to maintain as much independence as possible. There may also be an opportunity to get help and advice from other services including social workers and nurses.
Skilled Home Care
Skilled home care is similar to primary home care in that a professional will attend the home to provide care for the veteran. This care may include various therapies, including physical, speech, and occupational therapies.
To be eligible for this service, the veteran must be homebound and unable to attend such therapies within a clinic. The service is provided by VA, which uses skilled professionals in a contract with the organization.
Homemaker Home Health Aide Care
If a veteran does not need medical or professional care, they may still be in need of someone to help with day to day tasks such as personal care and looking after the home. This service may benefit caregivers who need a little time off or for veterans who do not have any other form of help.
In order to qualify for this service, the veteran must be in need of day-to-day help. Typically, you will need to be enrolled in the VHA standard medical benefits package but you can use the service in combination with other services both at home and in the community.
Home Hospice Care
When a veteran becomes terminally ill and has less than six months to live, the type of care that they require will change. Home hospice care provides palliative care for terminally ill veterans so that they can remain in their homes. However, there are also options to receive care in community settings should this be preferable.
Your assigned team will be made up of various professionals who will be able to help with pain management, emotional and spiritual support, as well as medical assistance.
Resources & Support Groups for Veterans & Caregivers
Sometimes, it is not financial or practical support that is needed. A friendly ear or someone who can relate to what you are going through is just as important and ensures good social and mental health for veterans and their families.
VA Caregiver Support Line
The VA Caregiver Support Line offers a range of services for caregivers on its toll-free line. The remit of the entire program is to create better caregivers who feel supported and seen. Agents are able to lend a friendly ear and talk through problems but can also offer practical support by connecting you with other relevant services, providing you with information on benefits, and connecting you to a support worker at your local VA medical center.
This is a nationwide service that is open to everyone regardless of age, gender, or location. Services can be provided online, over the telephone, and in person. Through the service, you may be able to access things like respite care and in-home help, as well as home hospice care when illnesses are terminal.
National Military Family Association
The National Military Family Association works hands-on with military families and provides a range of education and advice surrounding what you may be entitled to, as well as a vast array of other perks.
Things like summer camp for military children, scholarships, family retreats, and career funding are just some of the things you may be able to access. Having been founded in 1969, the National Military Family Association has in-depth experience of working with military families and understands their complex needs.
Military Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN)
The Military Veteran Caregiver Network is an organization that aims to connect caregivers to one another to provide mutual support. This is done both online and within the community and can give caregivers a real chance to talk through their issues with those who have common ground.
Elizabeth Dole Foundation
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation provides practical support in the home for caregivers of military loved ones. They will come to your home and give hands-on support in the day-to-day care needs of a veteran, which may include but is not limited to preparing meals, transport, housekeeping, and grooming.
The foundation was set up in 2012 and also conducts research and raises awareness of the struggles that military families may face.
National Association for Veterans and Families (NAVF)
For anyone that needs support accessing the various benefits on offer for veterans, the National Association for Veterans and Families can help. From discussing what you may be entitled to, as well as taking you through the application process and appealing any decisions, they are on hand for the whole journey.
Support is provided for veterans and their loved ones, and this is a nationwide service.
National Resource Directory
If you are a veteran and need access to services that can offer you support, the National Resource Directory will help you with this. They also provide support for caregivers and family members and will provide access to state and national services, according to your needs.
The services on offer cover a huge range of needs, including employment, family support, transport, health, housing, and much more.
Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
DAV is designed to support veterans and their family members, particularly during the transition back to civilian life. They are on hand to aid you through various situations and can offer help and advice surrounding benefits and employment, among other things.
The Disabled American Veterans organization also helps on a practical level, offering rides to medical appointments, and everything is free of charge. The organization is based around the country, and you can find your local office by heading to their website.
Veterans Crisis Line
So far, the VCL has taken more than 5 million calls from veterans regardless of their age or situation. The crisis line is open to everyone and is designed to provide crisis support as well as dispatching emergency service assistance where needed.
For suicide prevention, there are several ways of chatting with a responder including over the phone, via text, and through a live chat feature on the website.
Vets4Warriors is an organization that supports both veterans and their caregivers, as well as people who have recently signed up to the military. They can put people in touch with peers who can offer guidance and support or simply a friendly ear. They will also offer solutions to problems by referring to other suitable organizations and using resources. Full support is given until the problem is resolved.
What’s great about Vets4Warriors is that they are on hand 24/7 to support military members, veterans, and their caregivers wherever they are in the world.