One of the lesser-known benefits that the Department of Veterans Affairs provides is the Caregivers Program. Many former servicemembers are so disabled that they cannot work or even take care of themselves, so they need someone to take care of them on a regular basis. In many circumstances, spouses or family members elect to provide that care to the veteran so the veteran might have the comfort of being at home, surrounded by the loved ones that he/she fought for. Caregiving can be a full-time job, and if a spouse or family member is taking care of the veteran on a full-time basis, they find it difficult to work. The VA has attempted to support primary family caregivers by establishing the Caregiver Program, which compensates and provides benefits for primary caregivers of eligible veterans. The VA also provides training for the primary caregiver so that the veteran might receive the best home care possible.
Eligibility for VA Caregiver Program
In order to be eligible for the program, the veteran must have:
- Sustained a serious injury including traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma or other mental disorder incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, on or after September 11, 2001
- Need for personal care services because of an inability to perform one or more activities of daily living and/or need supervision or protection based on symptoms or residuals of neurological impairment or injury.
In addition, the veteran must already be enrolled for VA health care system.
VA Form for Caregiver Program
In order to start the application process for the Caregiver Program, the veteran must fill out the appropriate application (VA Form 10-10CG). The application must be signed by the veteran (or legal representative) and the designated primary Caregiver. The form is then submitted to the local VA medical center where the veteran is given health services and treated. If the veteran is not currently enrolled for VA health care services, he/she must also fill out the VA Form 10-10EZ.
Note: Applications are submitted to the VA medical center where eligibility criteria, caregivers of veterans and more are considered. The Regional Offices have nothing to do with the Caregiver Program, nor are they involved in a veteran’s request to move from one tier to another. Such a request would be handled by the VA medical center.
Within three business days of receipt of the initial application, the Caregiver Support Coordinator (CSC) at the local VA medical center will contact the veteran, and will arrange for the elected caregiver to complete the application and schedule the required training.
A clinical team from the VA will coordinate and complete an evaluation of the veteran in order to determine what assistance the veteran needs with the activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, grooming, and/or need for supervision or protection.
Once the required training is completed, a VA clinician will visit the veteran’s home to ensure that the veteran and the caregiver have everything they need for a successful and safe home care environment. After the home visit, the caregiver will begin to receive the monthly stipend. The caregiver may also receive health insurance through CHAMPVA. Both the stipend and health benefits are retroactive to the date of the initial application.
Upon receipt of the application for the Caregiver Program, the Veteran’s Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) at the veteran’s treating VA Medical Center will evaluate the veteran to determine how much care he/she needs on a day-to-day basis. There are three tiers:
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.
The primary caregiver is compensated according to what tier the veteran scores into.
Calculating the Stipend
The VA Health Administration Center (HAC), located in Denver, CO, processes the primary caregiver’s stipend. The HAC bases the stipend upon the maximum amount of hours accounted for in the veteran’s current tier.
The HAC follows a 3-step process in calculating the stipend:
- Retrieves the maximum number of hours of personal care for the tier level determined by the PACT
- Multiplies that number by the results of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ (BLS) hourly wage for a home health aide in the geographic region the care was provided (using the 75th percentile of the wage index) times the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) Cost of Living Adjustment
- Multiplies those results by 4.35, which is equal to the number of weeks in the month that the primary caregiver provided care to the veteran.
For example: If a veteran requires 10 hours of personal care weekly (Tier 1), and the 75th percentile of the BLS hourly wage index for a home health aide in his area was $10.00 per hour, multiplied by the annual CPI Cost of Living adjustment and the weeks of the month, the monthly stipend of the primary caregiver would be $565.50 a month (10 hours x $10.00 x 1.3 x 4.35 = $565.50).
Note: The stipend is a VA benefit and not considered taxable income.
In researching this topic, I found that it was difficult to find information on the Caregiver Program. Below are some links that may be useful in pursuing benefits under the Caregiver Program and getting approved..
- Link to the VA Regulations on the Caregiver Program
- Fact Sheet on the Stipend Benefit for the Primary Family Caregiver
- Fact Sheet on Applying for the Caregiver Program
- VA website on the Caregiver Program
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