Veteran caregivers face many obstacles and challenges every single day. When family members provide care they can fall through the cracks, failing to get the support, assistance, and information that could make life easier and taking care of a veteran less challenging. In the past many programs offering financial assistance did not recognize family caregivers, only professionals in this field.
Many caregivers who take care of veterans make sacrifices in their own lives, neglecting their own health, jobs, and freedom in order to care for a loved one who served. Statistics show that close to 1 in 5 caregivers for an adult is taking care of a veteran and that 96 percent of this population is female. More than 10 percent of caregivers are a veteran themselves.
Special Challenges for Veteran Caregivers
All caregivers take on extra duties and work harder but there are some special challenges for veteran caregivers. In general veterans require a longer amount of care, this care may be more extensive, and it can be complicated by psychological trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other service related mental disorders.
Key findings from a Michigan government report shows that “70 percent of caregivers reported that their veteran experiences depression or anxiety, and 60 percent report post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compared to only 28 percent of caregivers nationally whose care recipients suffer from mental or emotional health problems.”
The Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers Program
The Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program is a program designed to provide support and services to eligible family caregivers who provide necessary care to an eligible veteran. Under the program some of the benefits and services that the designated caregiver of the veteran can receive include:
- Necessary travel expenses which include lodging and a per diem amount while accompanying veterans for necessary care.
- A monthly stipend amount dependent on the level of care the veteran needs.
- Health insurance access if not already available to the caregiver under a health plan.
- Counseling and other mental health services.
- Comprehensive training provided by the VA and Easter Seals.
- A minimum of 30 days of respite care per year.
- Peer support and mentoring programs.
- Tele-health access.
- Access to caregiver support line.
Who Is an Eligible Veteran?
In order for veteran caregivers to qualify under the program the veteran must be eligible. The eligibility requirements that the veteran must meet include:
- The veteran must be enrolled through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs for health services.
- The veteran must have sustained a serious injury which was either incurred or aggravated while in the line of duty and that happened either on or after the date of September 11, 2001. The injury can involve physical or mental disorders including spinal injuries, traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma, and other disabling conditions.
- The veteran must need assistance with at least one activity of daily living OR the veteran must need to be either supervised or protected due to neurological impairment or injury.
Who is Eligible to be a Caregiver?
For veteran caregivers to qualify under the program they must also meet certain requirements and show a certain level of competency in providing the care that the veteran needs. Some of the requirements for this program include:
- Veteran caregivers must be a minimum of 18 years old,
- The caregiver must be an immediate or extended family member, with one exception noted below. This includes adult children, parents, spouses, siblings, step family members, or family members whose relationship is more extended such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.
- An individual who lives in the residence of the veteran on a full time basis but is not related may be designated as an eligible caregiver.
Other Organizations and Programs Which Also Offer Caregiver Support and Assistance
There are a number of other organizations and programs that also offer support and services to veteran caregivers. Call the NVF Lifeline for Vets at 888-777-4443 for a list.
The U.S. Department of Defense offers financial support for caregivers under the Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living program. There are also many private organizations which also provide support, services, and resources to veterans who need care and their caregivers.