On Sept. 25, 2019, VA announced improvements to the caregiver support program. This announcement put a timeline to expanding the comprehensive assistance to family caregivers.
VA is expanding the program in accordance with section 161 of the VA MISSION Act of 2018.
Under the MISSION Act, 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 September 11, 2001. Prior to expanding, VA must upgrade its information technology (IT) system and implement other improvements to strengthen the program.
When will the program expand?
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 VA’s new caregiver information technology system is fully implemented, which could be as early as the summer of 2020. VA will expand eligibility and begin accepting applications in two phases:
- In the first phase, 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, to September 10, 2001.
What is the timeline for expanding the IT system?
To modernize its caregiver IT system, VA is adopting a three-phased approach and will deploy a new system based on a commercial off the shelf product called Caregiver Record Management Application (CARMA) beginning in October 2019. 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. 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 VA offer for all caregivers?
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 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 VA strengthening the caregiver program?
In recent months, 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 VA doing for caregivers?
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 CSP and the full range of services available to caregivers, visit: https://www.caregiver.va.gov/ or call the Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274. For information on the MISSION Act, visit: https://missionact.va.gov/.