VA Rocky Mountain Network
Behind Friendly Lines: Insights for Veterans
Veteran caregiver eligibility expanded to all eras this month
Support teams available at every VAMC
When Greg returned home from three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and serious physical injuries, he had nowhere to turn. He was not the same person as before; he had fallen into a figurative hole – and he was okay with that. His immediate family didn’t want to care for him. Reluctantly, he reached out to his ex-wife, Rachel.
Rachel, a new mom, and newly remarried, agreed to step into the role of caregiver for her former husband, and turned to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregiver Support Program (CSP).
The CSP provides services and support to veterans and caregivers through two programs: Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) and Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC).
For our purposes, I’m solely focused on PCAFC, because on Oct. 1, VA announced a huge expansion to include eligible veterans and family caregivers of all eras.
Are you a caregiver for a veteran? Answer these questions to find out.
Do you make medical appointments or pick up prescriptions for a veteran? Do you help a veteran get dressed, take a shower, or take medicine? Do you talk with doctors, nurses, or social workers to understand what medical care or other benefits a veteran might need?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you are a caregiver and may be eligible for caregiver services through PGCSS or PCAFC.
Truth be told, most of us will serve in that role at some point in our lives. My parents are aging, and my wife and I will certainly care for our parents as they get older. But serving as a caregiver to a veteran is a little different.
Dr. Colleen M. Richardson, CSP executive director, recently shared with me about some enhanced CSP resources for caregivers: “All caregivers of Veterans enrolled in VA health care will have access to even more wholistic services, such as Caregiver Health and Wellbeing Coaching.” She further stated VA’s goal is to have the coaching available at every VA facility by September 2023.
To be eligible for PCAFC, the Veteran must have a serious injury (or illness), which is a single or combined service-connected disability rating of 70% or more and meet additional criteria. PCAFC eligibility criteria can be found at: https://www.caregiver.va.gov/support/support_benefits.asp.
Primary family caregivers may receive a monthly stipend (paid directly to the caregiver), access to health care insurance through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) (if otherwise not insured), mental health counseling, certain beneficiary travel benefits when traveling with the Veteran to appointments, and at least 30 days of respite care per year. Respite is short-term relief for someone else to care for the Veteran while the caregiver takes time away.
For more information about VA’s Caregiver Support Program, visit www.caregiver.va.gov, reach out to VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System’s Caregiver Support Team (720-723-3013), or call the national Caregiver Support Line (855-260-3274).
I encourage everyone serving in a caregiver role for a veteran to: see how CSP can assist, contact your nearest CSP team, and ensure you’re reaping all the benefits of the CSP.
Dr. Richardson summed it up well when she said, “Every caregiver should know that no matter what they need, or what they’re going through, the Caregiver Support Program is here to help.”
Thanks for allowing me to walk alongside you behind friendly lines.
Previously, PCAFC was only available to eligible Veterans who served on or after Sept. 11, 2001; however, Veterans of all eras, including those who served after May 7, 1975, and before Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible for the program.
PCAFC provides caregivers of eligible Veterans with resources, education, financial assistance, health insurance, beneficiary travel, peer support and more. The program is a cornerstone of VA health care, ensuring that Veterans get the world-class care they deserve and that caregivers get the comprehensive support they need.
For more information about VA’s Caregiver Support Program, visit www.caregiver.va.gov/index.asp
To find a local Caregiver Support Program (CSP) Coordinator, visit www.caregiver.va.gov/support/New_CSC_Page.asp