As part of the VA MISSION Act of 2018, VA’s Caregiver Support Program (CSP) has undergone bold steps and improvements to enhance the program and increase access to Veterans and their caregivers.
“President Biden has charged us with fighting like hell for Veterans, and that includes their caregivers,” said VA Deputy Secretary Donald Remy. “We’ve come a long way in supporting caregivers, and we have more work to do.”
Expanding support for caregivers
In 2020, the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) expanded to Veterans who served before May 5, 1975. This added over 22,000 caregivers of Veterans to PCAFC, more than doubling the program’s size. PCAFC is set to expand to Veterans of all eras beginning October 1, 2022.
Additionally, the resources available in VA’s Program of General Caregivers Support Services (PGCSS) – the core of VA’s caregiver support program – are also undergoing enhancement and expansion.
Reassessing processes, redesigning care
As VA expanded PCAFC to new eras of Veterans under the MISSION Act, VA began reassessing caregivers and Veterans already enrolled in PCAFC. Through this reassessment process, it became apparent the new criteria may not meet the needs of Post-9/11 Veterans and their family caregivers. At that point, VA put a halt on discharges for all legacy applicants, legacy participants, and their family caregiver based on reassessment; it also undertook an effort to put meaningful solutions in place that will have an immediate and positive impact on the caregivers and Veterans participating in PCAFC.
Taking action to improve support
Over the past several months, VA has taken the following actions:
- Halted discharges for all legacy applicants, legacy participants, and their family caregiver based on reassessment. Legacy participants, legacy applicants and their family caregivers will remain enrolled in PCAFC and continue to receive support and services under PCAFC, unless revoked or discharged for a reason unrelated to the reassessment.
- Engaged with Veteran Service Organizations, Military Service Organizations, caregivers, CSP staff and other strategic stakeholders via listening sessions.
- Redesigned the PCAFC wellness contact process to better capture the caregiver and Veteran’s overall needs, and to decrease the length of the contact.
- Expanded PCAFC to the Northern Mariana Islands, allowing access to caregivers supporting Veterans in all US States and Territories.
- Expanded the definition of the Safety, Protection, and Instruction (SPI) standard, focusing on inclusivity.
VA is also actively working to:
- Address the need for better transparency and understanding in PCAFC decisions by updating its notification letter to inform applicants of the granular reasoning behind approval or denial.
- Streamline its approach to the PCAFC assessment process by reducing the number of questions to ease the burden of completing reassessments, and continuing to further simplify the assessment process.
- Create a caregiver and Veteran experience survey that will be used to make ongoing improvements.
- Work across CSP, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Geriatrics and Extended Care and other VHA offices to provide wrap-around support to caregivers and Veterans in addition to expanding and enhancing the resources available in VA’s Program of General Caregivers Support Services (PGCSS).
- Recruit staff needed to fulfill three CSP priorities: timely processing of new applications, appeals of disagreements, and support to caregivers.
There’s a lot to do to build on these steps, and we’ll continue to provide updates throughout this process. VA will stop at nothing to make sure Veterans and their caregivers get the support they need and deserve.
As VA’s Deputy Secretary Remy stated at a recent National Caregiver Convening, “Trust is earned, it’s not given. We hope we can earn your trust through these continued efforts as we work to be good caretakers of the caregiver program.”
Find more information about the VA Caregiver Support Program here: