Providing care for an aging loved one requires a large amount of time, energy, focus and financial resources. This can take a toll on the overall well-being of a caregiver, who often neglects their own needs. But in order to give their loved ones the high level of care that facilitates a dignified and comfortable end of life, the caregiver needs to provide themselves with care first.
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a VA Caregiver Support Program and the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC). 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, the program gives eligible family caregivers a monthly stipend based on the veteran’s needs and location.
However, many participants have recently been dropped or rejected from the program — even as their veterans’ care needs increased — prompting an investigation by NPR. Shortly after, the VA announced it has suspended revocations initiated by VA medical centers based on eligibility for caregiver support program.
“VA is taking immediate action to review the national caregiver support program to ensure we honor our commitment to enhance the health and well-being of veterans,” said David J. Shulkin, secretary of Veterans Affairs. “I have instructed an internal review to evaluate consistency of revocations in the program and standardize communication with veterans and caregivers nationwide.”
The three-week review is an acknowledgment by the VA that it values family caregivers and their commitment to care for those who have “borne the battle” and is equally committed to improving its support and service options.
Here is a look at the first steps being taken to improve the program:
- The Elizabeth Dole Foundation hosted listening sessions that included military caregivers, the national director of the VA Caregiver Program, top Veterans Service Organizations and Military Service Organizations representatives, and civilian-based caregiver nonprofits.
- The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health conducted a roundtable discussion to determine how the VA can improve the caregiver program.
- Sen. Elizabeth Dole met with Shulkin to discuss the needs of military caregivers and offer critical recommendations and observations about the program.
During the internal review of the program, VA Medical Centers will continue accepting PCAFC applications, approving applicants based upon current eligibility criteria, processing appeals and monitoring eligible veterans’ well-being at least every 90 days.
“We remain focused on process improvements and support services for our family caregivers so they can take care of our veterans,” said Poonam Alaigh, acting VA under secretary for health.