The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced July 28 that it is resuming full operations of the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. The program, designed to provide caregivers additional support and services to allow post-9/11 veterans to stay in their homes and out of long-term treatment facilities, was temporarily suspended in April after NPR reported many participants were being dropped or rejected from the program.
During the three-month suspension, the VA conducted a strategic review aimed at strengthening the program and found it needed better communication about clinical revocations, improved internal processes and procedures, and additional staff training.
Here is a look at what you need to know about the biggest changes to the caregiver support program.
Caregiver Support Program Directive
The VA issued a new directive outlining staff responsibilities and describing aspects of the program, including veteran and caregiver eligibility requirements, available benefits, and procedures for revocations from the program.
“Family caregivers in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers are to be recognized as collaborative partners with the veteran’s primary care team in ensuring the overall care and well-being of the veteran,” the directive stipulates.
The VA also trained more than 600 staff on the new policy and tools.
In an effort to provide clear and direct communication with the veteran and the family caregiver and to improve the systematic execution of the program, the VA developed a template discharge letter. The letter not only spells out in plain language the reason the veteran or family caregiver no longer meets the eligibility criteria but also provides guidance on how to appeal the decision as well as information about benefits and services available to the family caregiver as the veteran transitions out of the program.
The caregiver program website has been redesigned and now includes an updated Roles, Responsibilities and Requirements document that details the roles, responsibilities and requirements for family caregivers, veterans and service members, and VA caregiver support coordinators participating in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
The purpose of the document is to demonstrate that family caregivers in the program are to be recognized as collaborative partners with Veterans Health Administration providers in ensuring the overall care and well-being of the veteran.
The website also now includes a section linking caregivers and veterans to resources and home- and community-based services available through VA’s Geriatrics and Extended Care programs.
Additionally, the VA will be formalizing ways to ensure that the experience of veterans’ families, caregivers and survivors are understood and that, where needed, new or additional assistance is explored. If you’d like more information about your case or eligibility status in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, reach out to your local veterans service organization or VA medical facility staff, such as the caregiver support coordinator.
“VA has taken immediate steps to improve the program’s operations,” says VA Secretary David J. Shulkin. “Our top focus during the review has been to listen, evaluate and act swiftly to make changes that will better meet the needs of our veterans and caregivers. This does not mean our work is done. We will continue to refine and improve this important program.”