How to Get Approved for The VA Caregiver Program
Veterans who were injured or experienced illness as a result of military service may require the help of a caregiver for activities of daily living. This is also true for veterans experiencing mental disorders like PTSD.
Caregivers of veterans are often family members who assist with home care, transportation to health care appointments, and other daily tasks. They often take on the role of a home health aide but lack the financial support.
To help support these family caregivers, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. This program provides VA health care benefits, monthly stipends, coverage of travel expenses, and other types of financial support to the caregivers of eligible veterans.
Those who are eligible for this program can receive a number of caregiver benefits. Here’s what disabled veterans and their family members should know about this caregiver support program.
What Is The VA Caregiver Program?
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) is open to veterans who were injured or experienced an aggravated injury in the line of duty after September 11, 2001 OR on or before May 7, 1975. If a veteran qualifies for the program, their primary caregiver can receive a number of benefits, including:
- Caregiver stipends
- Health insurance
- Mental health services
- Beneficiary travel benefits
- Respite care
- Support resources
- Other caregiver services
Secondary caregivers may be eligible for benefits as well, including mental health counseling, beneficiary travel benefits, and respite care.
Caregivers may be eligible for health care benefits through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). These types of services can help a veteran’s loved ones provide home care and support the well being of the veteran.
According to the VA, a family caregiver is a son, daughter, spouse, parent, stepfamily member, extended family member, or any person who lives with the veteran fill time or is willing to do so if designated as a caregiver. So, veterans need to consider who their primary family caregiver is when applying for the program.
To apply for the caregiver program, veterans need to fill out VA Form 10-10CG. This is the first step in the application process.
How Does The VA Determine Eligibility?
The VA MISSION Act expanded benefits for veterans and their caregivers by opening access to PCAFC. This expansion began on October 1, 2020 with the first of two phases. The VA is rolling out the phases as follows:
- Phase 1: Family caregivers of veterans who were seriously injured in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975 will be eligible for the program.
- Phase 2: After two years, family caregivers of Veterans who were seriously injured in the line of duty between May 7, 1975, and September 10, 2001 will be eligible for the program.
Prior to this change, this eligibility only applied to family caregivers of veterans who sustained serious injuries in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001.
We will outline the VA’s current eligibility requirements in more detail below.
Eligibility for Caregivers
The following are the VA’s requirements for PCAFC eligibility as they apply to caregivers. Family caregivers must be:
- 18 years of age or older, AND
- A spouse, son, daughter, parent, stepfamily member, or extended family member of the veteran, OR
- Someone who lives full-time with the veteran or is will to do so if designated as a family caregiver.
Eligibility for Veterans
For a veteran to be eligible for the caregiver program, they must meet the following criteria:
- The individual must be a veteran or member of the armed forces undergoing medical discharge.
- The veteran must have an individual or combined VA disability rating of 70% or higher.
- The veteran’s service-connected disabilities must have been caused or worsened by their active duty service:
- on or after September 11, 2001, OR
- on or before May7, 1975.
- The veteran must have been discharged from the U.S. military or have a date of medical discharge.
- The veteran must need at least six months of continuous, in-person personal care services.
According to the VA, personal care services include assistance with health and well-being, assistance with everyday personal needs like bathing, dressing, and feeding, as well as help supporting the veteran’s safety, protection, or instruction in their daily living environment.
Note: Effective October 1, 2022, these eligibility requirements will expand to include veterans who were seriously injured in the line of duty after May 7, 1975 and before September 11, 2001.
You can learn more about eligibility requirements on the VA PCAFC fact sheet on VA.gov.
C&P Exam for the VA Caregiver Program
When an injured veteran applies for the Caregiver Program, he/she will be scheduled for a C&P exam to determine if the veteran is eligible for the program and what kind of care the veteran requires.
The first part of the exam goes over the seven eligibility criteria, which were outlined in a previous blog post. The exam will then rate the veteran’s ability to perform various Actions of Daily Living (ADLs), as well as the degree to which the veteran must be supervised and/or protected to due mental conditions.
High Dependence: 28-21
Moderate Dependence: 20-13
Low Dependence: 12-1
4 = TOTAL ASSISTANCE (Veteran completes < 25% of task/activity or is unable to do task task/activity without assistance)
3 = MAXIMAL ASSISTANCE (Veteran completes 25-49% of task/activity with supervision/ coaching assistance)
2 = MODERATE ASSISTANCE (Veteran completes 50-75% of activity with some hands on help)
1= MINIMAL ASSISTANCE (Veteran completes 75% or more of task/activity with some hands-on help)
0 = COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE (Veteran completes task/activity without help)
Category 1 – ADLS
The VA examiner will rate the veteran’s competency in or use of:
- Assistive devices
Category 2 – Assistance/Supervision
The VA examiner will also rate the degree to which the veteran has difficulty in, or needs assistance/supervision with various areas:
- Requires supervision/assistance as a result of seizures (blackouts or lapses in mental awareness, etc.):
- Difficulty with planning and organizing (adhering to medication regimen, managing financial and other household affairs):
- Safety risks (significant risk of falling, wandering outside the home, leaving stove/oven on, crossing street, using electrical appliances, suicidal ideation):
- Difficulty with sleep regulation:
- Requires assistance/supervision as a result of delusions/hallucinations:
- Difficulty with recent memory (forgets what day it is, what happened yesterday, etc.):
- Self-regulation (being able to moderate moods, agitation/aggression):
The examiner will combine the scores of both categories, and the total will determine the tier to which the veteran belongs. This score also determines how many hours a week the veteran will need care or assistance, which will be the basis of the primary caregiver’s stipend.
High Tier (Tier 3) – A Veteran who scores 21 or higher will be presumed to need a full-time caregiver, one who provides 40 hours of personal care services per week.
Medium Tier (Tier 2) – A Veteran who scores 13-20 in all categories will be presumed to require 25 hours per week of caregiver assistance.
Low Tier (Tier 1) – A Veteran who scores 1-12 will be presumed to need 10 hours per week of caregiver assistance.
Keep in mind that while the application process may be complicated, a local caregiver support coordinator (CSC) is available at your local VA Medical Center to help. If the VA accepts you application and you enroll in the program, a VA clinician will schedule a home visit to ensure that your caregiver has the resources they need for home care.
How Can You Get Approved for The VA Caregiver Program?
If a veteran meets the eligibility requirements to enroll int the VA caregiver program, there are steps they can take along with the caregiver to get approved. Here are some tips to consider.
- Remember C&P exam best practices. We’ve outlined what veterans can expect during a C&P exam, so it’s important that veterans keep this in mind wen undergoing the exam again. Remember to answer the examiners questions honestly and provide details about the daily tasks you need assistance with. The examiner is not there to diagnose or treat your condition. Rather, they are there to assess your eligibility for the program.
- Prepare for the home visit. After you apply for the program, a VA clinician will visit your home. The purpose of this visit will be to assess your need for a caregiver. Avoid glossing over your needs and challenges. You and your caregiver should both be open and honest about the assistance you need with activities like dressing and bathing.
- Complete the required training. After submitting the application for the VA caregiver program, caregivers need to complete caregiver training. This training will ensure that you’re equipped to assist the veteran with their family needs. Be sure to complete this training as scheduled and communicate with the Caregiver Support Coordinator if you’re unable to attend the scheduled training.
- Provide details. During conversations with the VA clinical team, as well as the home visit, be sure to be open about your role as a caregiver. These details can include the veterans care schedule, specifics about how you support the veterans needs, and details about any questions the clinician asks.
- Reach out to the CSA. If you have questions about the application process, home visit, or caregiver training, be sure to reach out to the Caregiver Support Coordinator at your local VA medical center. It’s always better to ask than to file a form incorrectly or miss a scheduled appointment.
Resources for Caregivers & Former Service Members
Caregivers to disabled veterans can also reach the National Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274. More information about caregiver support resources is available on caregiver.va.gov. You can learn more about veterans health care through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
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