VA strengthens Caregiver Support Program

On Sept. 25, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced improvements to the Caregiver Support Program. This announcement put a timeline to expanding the comprehensive assistance to family caregivers.
The VA is expanding the program in accordance with section 161 of the VA MISSION Act of 2018.
Under the MISSION Act, the VA will use a phased approach to expand the program of comprehensive assistance for family caregivers to eligible veterans from all eras. Currently, the program is only available to eligible veterans seriously injured in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. Prior to expanding, the VA must upgrade its information technology (IT) system and implement other improvements to strengthen the program.
When will the program expand?
The VA is not currently accepting applications for the program of comprehensive assistance for family caregivers for veterans of eras other than post 9/11. The first phase of the program expansion will occur once the secretary has certified that the VA’s new caregiver IT system is fully implemented, which could be as early as the summer of 2020. The VA will expand eligibility and begin accepting applications in two phases:
• In the first phase, the VA will begin accepting applications of eligible veterans who incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975.
• The final phase, due to begin two years later, will include eligible veterans who incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty after May 7, 1975, and to Sept. 10, 2001.
What is the timeline for expanding the IT system?
To modernize its caregiver IT system, the VA is adopting a three-phased approach and deployed a new system based on a commercial off-the-shelf product called Caregiver Record Management Application (CARMA) beginning in October. The VA will deploy phase two in January 2020 to centralize and automate stipend payment calculations and expects to deploy phase three in the summer of 2020, which will enable caregivers to apply for benefits online. The VA will then perform testing and verify that the system has full functionality before expanding the program as required under the MISSION Act.
What services does the VA offer for all caregivers?
The VA provides a wide range of services for caregivers including training, education, respite care, a telephone support line and self-care courses. These are available to caregivers for veterans enrolled for VA health care regardless of when or how they were injured.
What does the VA offer under the comprehensive assistance program?
Caregivers in this program may also receive a monthly stipend, beneficiary travel, mental health counseling, enhanced respite services and other benefits.
How is the VA
strengthening the
caregiver program?
In recent months, the VA has developed or amended 14 standard operating procedures to clarify program requirements for VA staff, increased oversight in each Veterans Integrated Service Network, provided training and education to staff and caregivers, and is boosting operational capacity with the hiring of more than 680 staff.
What else is the VA doing for caregivers?
The VA is working across the organization to ensure caregivers have a positive experience through program improvements and initiatives to include:
• Establishing a campaign (VA/Elizabeth Dole Foundation collaboration) that aims to integrate caregivers into the health care team, through education modules about topics such as the role and impact of caregivers.
• Expanding telehealth services to enable veterans and their caregivers to get care in the comfort of their homes.
• Providing a toolkit for caregivers and family members and their role in the prevention of suicide.
• Promoting self-care for caregivers through text messaging.
• Increasing self-care courses for caregivers.
• Providing home and community-based care alternatives through the Choose Home Initiative at 21 VA medical centers.
How can I learn more?
For detailed information on the Caregiver Support Program and the full range of services available to caregivers, visit: https://www.caregiver.va.gov/ or call the Caregiver Support Line at (855) 260-3274.
For more information
The office of the Archuleta County veterans service officer (VSO) provides assistance to qualified military veterans and their families, or a veteran’s survivors, in applying to and in obtaining VA program assistance, benefits and claims. This assistance is provided within the guidelines, policies and procedures established by the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This is a mandated program of the state of Colorado.
For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Pagosa Springs Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard. The best way to contact me is to set up an appointment, for either at your home or in the office, so I can schedule a specific time in order to answer and assist each veteran in Archuleta County.
The office number is 264-4013; fax number is 264-4014 and email is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. Bring your DD Form 214 (discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office. Always leave me a message and phone number to contact you.
Veterans’ groups
The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:
• American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.
• American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: First Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.
• Veterans for Veterans: Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd.
• Combat Veterans PTSD Group: Every other Tuesday at noon, Community United Methodist Church, 434 Lewis St. Contact Gary Hanneman at 946-2540.
• Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: First and third Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Dr. Sharon Carter’s office. Contact Charlotte at 903-9690.
Important numbers
• 799-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.
• Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.
• Farmington VA Center: (505) 326-4383.
• VAMC Albuquerque NM: (800) 465-8262.
• VAMC Albuquerque NM emergency notification: (800) 465-8262, ext. 5739.
The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.

This story was posted on November 13, 2019.