Wednesday, February 09, 2011

New and Enhanced VA Benefits Provided to Caregivers of Veterans

Unprecedented Law Augments Commitment to Nation's Most Vulnerable
Veterans

WASHINGTON (Feb. 9, 2011)- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is
launching the first of a series of new and enhanced services supporting
family caregivers of seriously ill and injured Veterans.   In May 2010,
President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health
Services Act of 2010 legislation authorizing VA to establish a wide
range of new services to support certain caregivers of eligible Post
9/11 Veterans.

"Caregivers make tremendous sacrifices every day to help Veterans of all
eras who served this nation," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki. "They are critical partners with VA in the recovery and
comfort of ill and injured Veterans, and they deserve our continued
training, support and gratitude."

"DAV is happy to hear that caregivers of Veterans are getting additional
support and services to care for our Nation's heroes and unprecedented
new services for our most recent severely ill and injured," said David
W. Gorman, executive director of the Washington Headquarters of the
Disabled American Veterans.  "We understand there are challenges to
implementing the new law; including ensuring that critically ill and
injured Veterans of all eras are similarly supported."

In addition to the new benefits and services for eligible Veterans who
were disabled in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001 (Post 9/11
Veterans), VA will also begin providing enhanced benefits and services
to caregivers of Veterans of all eras who are already enrolled in VA
care, including:

*      Access to VA's toll-free Caregiver Support Line:  1-855-260-3274,

*      Expanded education and training on caring for Veterans at home,

*      Other support services such as counseling and support groups and
referral services; and

*      An enhanced website for caregivers.

Some of the  new benefits of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health
Services Act are restricted by law to the caregivers of the most
seriously ill and injured Post 9/11 Veterans.  Those additional benefits
include:

*      A monthly stipend,

*      Health care coverage,

*      Travel expenses, including lodging and per diem while
accompanying Veterans undergoing care,

*      Respite care; and

*      Mental health services and counseling.

VA will take the opportunity to report to Congress in the future on the
feasibility of expanding the enhanced services to family caregivers of
Veterans of all eras.

While some of these enhanced benefits are available now, many of the
other significant newly-enacted benefits will require the issuance of
regulations.  These additional benefits include monthly stipends, pay
for travel costs, medical coverage, training, counseling and respite
care designed to prevent institutionalization of Veterans whenever
possible.  The law requires detailed regulations for determining
eligibility, designating and approving caregivers, and providing
stipends and health care coverage to primary family caregivers.  The
complex process required to implement these regulations will provide
Veterans, caregivers and the general public the opportunity to provide
comments before those regulations are finalized.

 "VA has supported caregivers of Veterans of all eras for almost eight
decades," said Deborah Amdur of VA's Care Management and Social Work
Service, "and we know from our experience and research that Veterans are
best served when they can live their lives as independently as possible
surrounded by caring family and friends."

Each VA medical center has designated caregiver support coordinators who
will assist eligible Veterans and caregivers in understanding and
applying for the new benefits. VA also has a Caregiver Support Web page,
www.caregiver.va.gov <http://www.caregiver.va.gov> , which will provide
general information once final regulations are published.