Caregivers have been overlooked by VA over the years, but those days are over, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said Oct. 29.

Speaking at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Sixth Annual National Convening, McDonough said one of VA’s most important jobs is to support caregivers.

“Our job at VA and EDF is to help those caregivers to find ways to make their lives easier – both because that’s the right thing to do, and because supporting caregivers improves outcomes for Veterans,” he said.

VA will continue to focus on four pillars: advocacy, access, outcomes and excellence. Focusing on those four is critical, as the stress of managing a household and Veteran’s medical conditions during a pandemic is hard.

“This is the type of stress that leads caregivers to suffer from anxiety, depression and health issues more often than most Americans,” McDonough said. “And it means that our shared mission to care for those caregivers has never been more important than it is right now.”

During the pandemic, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation partnered with VA to provide more than $500,000-worth of free, professional respite services to caregivers who needed it. On top of that, VA has vaccinated more than 85,000 caregivers and given personal protective equipment, all while delivering more care and benefits than ever before.

McDonough said VA will continue the close collaboration with the Veterans’ Family, Caregiver, and Survivor Advisory committee – which is chaired by Senator Elizabeth Dole. VA’s dedication to caregivers shows, with its first ever senior advisor for caregivers: Meg Kabat advises the secretary on families, caregivers and survivors.

“We’ll move heaven and earth to get caregivers timely access to their VA resources,” he said.

Ensuring that caregivers who help Veterans with assisted daily living get those resources, McDonough noted that the Program of Comprehensive Assistance will soon expand to cover all generations of caregivers. PCAFC was previously expanded in October 2020 to eligible Veterans who incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty in the active military, naval or air service on or before May 7, 1975. Soon, access to PCAFC will include eligible Veterans from all eras who have a serious injury – incurred or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military, naval or air service.

VA announced in September that its Caregiver Support Program is extending eligibility through Sept. 30, 2022, for Veterans who are legacy participants; it additionally extends to legacy applicants and their family caregivers who participate in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

This extension applies to Veterans who were participating in PCAFC before Oct. 1, 2020, and to individuals who applied for PCAFC before Oct. 1, 2020. It also applies to those who were accepted into the program after Oct. 1, 2020.

The secretary highlighted other programs, too, including the Program of General Caregiver Support Services. Dedicated staff at every VA medical center meet with caregivers, help identify their Veterans’ needs, and come up with a plan to address them. VA’s “vitally important” Peer Support Program for caregivers strengthens relationships between caregivers, providing an opportunity for networking and empowering caregivers to help one another.

“Because as you know, the health and happiness of caregivers is inextricably tied to the health and happiness of the Veterans they serve,” McDonough said. “In other words, by improving caregiver outcomes, we improve Veteran outcomes – and we at VA are going to stop at nothing to do both.”

The secretary then cited a story of a Veteran who is a quadruple amputee and whose wife is his primary caregiver. He said the Veteran needs daily help, ranging from brushing his teeth to putting on his prosthetics in the morning. The Veteran appreciates when people come up to him and thank him for his service, but noted that nobody comes up to his wife to thank her for the service she’s given to the country by being a caregiver. The secretary said that’s wrong and he’s out to fix it.

“I know that at times, throughout VA’s history, caregivers have been overlooked,” he said. “Or not included. Or not appreciated for the back-breaking work they do, and the incredible service that they provide. But I’m here today to say, to any caregiver watching, that those days are over. Let me repeat: those days are over.”

Learn more

Respite relief – https://hiddenheroes.org/respite/.

VA Caregiver Support Program – https://www.caregiver.va.gov/.

Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers – https://www.caregiver.va.gov/support/support_benefits.asp.

Program of General Caregiver Support Services – https://www.caregiver.va.gov/care_caregivers.asp.

Peer Support Program for caregivers – https://www.caregiver.va.gov/support/Peer_Support_Mentoring_Program.asp.

By Air Force Veteran Adam Stump is a public affairs specialist with VA's Digital Media Engagement team.

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Published on Oct. 29, 2021

Estimated reading time is 3.9 min.

Views to date: 1,796

26 Comments

  1. Sean November 23, 2021 at 3:46 pm

    Been on the program since 2012 at Tier 3; the highest level, meaning that I required a lot of care and/or supervision and protection. I was granted entry solely for a mental health reason as that was my only disability back then (70% and 100% for IU). I was a safety risk due to suicidal ideation, due to many psychotropic meds including benzodiazepines that affected memory, cognition. Over the course of nearly 10 years, my wife and I complied with the program requirements. Had our quarterly visits. No changes. Had our annual reassessments. No changes. Not even downgraded a single Tier for 10 years! In between then and now I’ve added nearly 12 service connected disabilities including a debilitating Ménière’s Disease (60%) diagnosis that renders my balance system useless. This requires not only help with supervision or protection for safety but also help with several of the ADLs on their new list. Add in about 7-8 knee service connections (10-20% each) due to my service as a paratrooper (including 3 knee surgeries, 2 of them being medial meniscectomies). Let’s not forget a cardiac condition (30%) requiring two ablation procedures that did not work and require medication for. Plus Sinusitis due to Burn Pit exposure (God knows I have other issues related to breathing in that crap). I’m now 100% schedular and been P&T since 2016.

    So since my initial entry into the program just for mental health, I’ve got numerous musculoskeletal disabilities, a vestibular disability, and still the same old PTSD. Got reevaluated on 11/5, “functional assessment” (sham evaluation) on 11/8, and discharged on 11/15. Now I’ve been in the VA system for a long time but I’ve NEVER seen anything happen so fast. NOTHING in the VA moves that quickly….unless it’s predetermined.

    This is a warning for the post-9/11 veterans. We have been bamboozled. We fought for equity for our brothers and sisters for expansion at our own participation. I’ve talked to multiple county VSOs in the State I live and most are fielding calls related to post-9/11 vets getting dropped. They have indeed turned it into a Geriatric Program. No offense to the older generations. You guys/gals deserve these benefits. Hell, they should have made it equal back when they passed the law in 2010. But the “rumors” you are hearing about vets getting dropped are definitely true. For those yet to be reevaluated, good luck, but unfortunately your fate is already decided. They will send both you AND your spouse your pink slips via USPS certified mail, RRR, signature required. They want to make sure you feel the knife twisting.

    Tier 3 for 10 years with no changes ever reported on any evaluation to being completely discharged in the matter of 10 days? Really? And we are talking about caring about Caregivers? What a joke! And the irony is that it’s Caregiver Appreciation Month. Oh the VA. How they always deliver on their broken promises. Prepare for multiple lawsuits. Something certainly stinks here. Especially, in my case, I have letters from multiple physicians who treat me contradicting the exact reason I was discharged. See you in court.

  2. Chad Childers November 19, 2021 at 3:56 pm

    I think that the caregivers program needs to implement some sort of training for personal caregivers. Lack of medical training and knowledge of proper care techniques cause the veteran to suffer. I have witnessed this first hand with my ex-fiance’s father.

    Her and her mother were not trained properly to care for her dad in his condition. Sad to say but the Vietnam Veteran was the one that suffered for their lack of training.

  3. Wallace Gunn November 7, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    Thank God for Louisville Kentucky VA Hospital

  4. Terry LLoyd November 5, 2021 at 10:44 am

    From what I can gather, a VA “rule change” is making over 6.700 “legacy” veterans, and their caregivers” “ineligible” They will see their benefits end in Oct. 2022. And this is all without any due process or possibility of appeal. What really stinks is Congress did not change the criteria that made these folks “eligible” when they originally applied.

    Shouldn’t it be obvious that cutting disabled veterans’ benefits will effect their health, cause devastating financial impacts, and degrade the little quality of life they have, not to mention it is just the wrong thing to do? Despicable and heartless, and the propaganda piece above is disgusting!

  5. Steven November 4, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    I was initially told a decade ago that I didn’t qualify due to not missing any limbs. I am an OIF veteran that is 100% P&T. Once we moved to a different state, we were asked why we weren’t on the program. After the initial process taking close to 90 days, we were accepted into the program and have been on it for 6 years. Despite being a legacy, we are being treated otherwise. None of my medical history of 20+ years is being considered, only the last 6 months. Anything pre 2020 is considered too old for established documentation, or that is what I am being told. By narrowing the criteria for eligibility, they are eliminating veterans already rightfully on the program.

  6. Tom Del Carlo November 4, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Run into the VA censor.

  7. Tom Del Carlo November 4, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    A few. years ago, I would never have
    believed how bad the VA was getting, but after getting lied to and seeing how the VA in total really worked, I don’t think any of these comments are wrong or exaggerated. You are shovelling against the tide, but good luck!

  8. Steve November 4, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    With our government it’s always the same stuff different day. I fought hard for many years as the VA called me a liar. Now days I feel very happy when people stick it to the local state and federal government. Hang tough hang together and we can beat them at there own game.

  9. Jim L. November 4, 2021 at 10:58 am

    I can read and understand how many here feel about the VA programs. This one for caregivers seems to really fail a lot of people. I am a Vietnam vet and am one of the lucky ones. What I have discovered from my little bit of time with interacting with VA personal (at the medical side of the VA) is that the people they hire to work at the VA are at best incompetent. They are rude, condescending, angry people. Never see a smile from them. They all act like I am infringing on their time. I worked healthcare my entire life. I always believed that the best I can do for my patients is to show compassion and caring in light of the difficult circumstances they are dealing with. It is just not what I have found at the VA. My own son-in-law who works as a VA counselor suggested I go on the VA health system instead of Medicare. Seemed like a good idea as it would be easier on my fixed income. Now I regret this decision. The VA healthcare system which was propagandized as being reorganized and better. I THINK NOT! I don’t know. Maybe it is because I am more familiar with outside healthcare where jobs are not set in stone like the VA employees. Everyone on that system seems to want their jobs and want to excel at their jobs. At the VA hospital I go to it is one angry, apathetic, possibly limited intelligence person after another. Bottom line. You get what you pay for. You want free? Expect to get what you get for the cost. I am going to have to pay a penalty for waiting to go onto Medicare but at this point, I am willing to pay $150 a month for healthcare that is competent and caring. The VA does not have these attributes.

  10. Victor Orlando Sierra November 4, 2021 at 9:08 am

    Hypocrisy I am a 100% Combat related Veteran that his wife qualified for and stipend and left her work just to care for me because i was a suicide risk and she had been my strong rock that helped me with my struggles and Now after 7 years they VA are threatning to reevaluate to remove the stipend and to everybody else that was awarded this benefit before 2020. I guess MR Secretary that those days of post 9/11 veterans that FOUGTH ARE OVER AHH. Dont worry when you all star hearing on your news channels that after you put more financial hardship on our families and caregiver started to need to go to work and AND ABANDONED OUR BORED USELESS VETERANS ALONE DONT GET SURPRISE WHEN THOSE SUICIDE NUMBERS START TO CLIMB AGAIN. THOSE NUMBERS WILL BE ON YOU ALL. THANKS FOR DESTROYING OUR SERVICE. VERY WELL APPRICIATED.

  11. BLANCHIE MARIE JONES November 4, 2021 at 9:02 am

    I am my husbands caregiver and have applied for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, and was denied. I had to send in an appeal with documentation from 2 doctors which was done and a list of all duties that I perform for my husband and was denied a 2nd time. I then did the final appeal with additional information and was denied the last time. I wrote to my congressman, senator, governor, and also the president. It is sad that at my age that I can not get the compensation for taking care of my husband who is a Marine who served 2 tours in Viet Nam. I do not understand.

  12. C. Journey November 3, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    I totally agree with Actions speak louder than words! This program took a long time – just to be denied. I spend many many hours a day caring for my Vietnam Veteran and I am Very disappointed that my service to him is not respected or valued, not even a small gesture of some respite care so I can have some MUCH NEEDED time away from providing care for him in a stressful situation. I guess when I can no longer do so, which may be sooner than it needs to be, it will cost the VA A LOT more than what needs to be.

  13. Patricia Ann Duus November 3, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    My husband died of Parkinson’s in May, 2021. He was a Vietnam era veteran who handles trichloroethylene for 24 months in Africa 8 hours a day cleaning M_1 grand rifles. We applies two years ago. I had hoped to get him into a VA hospital. I took care of him at home for the last three years and finally 8 month before he died he went into assisted living. Hospice care was given 4 months before he died. He was diagnosed in 2007. He probably had it when we married in 1995. NO HELP FROM THE VA!!!!!! Only more and more questions. Even his VSO officer admits they just do not want to pay. So when I see all these programs, I get upset. JUST DO YOUR PRIMARY JOB VA, not what is just politically correct and gets a lot of publicity!

  14. Walter Kelly November 3, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    I am a desert storm vet the forgotten war I need a care giver and was told that I didn’t qualify because my dd214 stated I was out of active duty in 1992 however I was placed in the reserves and retired in 2003 I served close to ten years active and the rest in the reserves I can’t qualify for a grey area retirement and I have to wait until I turn 59 not fair at all

  15. Ser Siow lin November 2, 2021 at 7:29 pm

    My hubby 80% ptsd and requires my full care…we qualify for stipend but was denied simply becuz we live overseas! How is that fair? I suffer more cuz there is no VA facility around me. If you need to check on me , why can’t the US Embassy do it since they are in my locality. This is absolutely senseless , secretary McDonough..

    • Mia November 8, 2021 at 3:33 am

      Does anyone when will they include veterans living overseas who are 100% P&T? Thanks

  16. Mancine Frank November 2, 2021 at 11:17 am

    Why doesn’t it cover your wife or your dependents I take care of my wife who has Parkinson’s, I’m a Veteran, and it’s a shame that the programs the VA offers is only for veterans and not the wife. I get little help as a caretaker and with PTSD, it’s hard seeing your wife of so many years just fade away!

  17. David Brown November 2, 2021 at 8:10 am

    I thank God every day for the Lexington Ky VA.

  18. Beverly Sipe November 1, 2021 at 9:39 pm

    Totally agree! Every day struggles on top of trying to manage the financial problems involved in coordinating CCN with VA. Feel like I should be on the VA payroll for dealing with all of this!!

    • Becky November 4, 2021 at 1:25 pm

      The caregiver program was good…. now as a ‘legacy’ we have had so much more anxiety and uncertainty. So many are being removed due to the ‘expanded’ program. From what I am hearing I expect to be denied after our re-eval. After about 12 years I FINALLY got my veteran into a therapy program… he already stated he will stop going if I have to go find a job and not able to take him….. once again he feels like the va is going to let us down! Fingers crossed this won’t be the outcome. But the stress of the unknown for over a year is taking its toll on us both!

  19. Rebecca Ariss November 1, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    We, my mother and I applied for the caregiver program and were denied twice. Apparently my dad, a Vietnam veteran, cancer patient, was not sick enough or didn’t need enough ‘care for us to qualify. His cancer got worse so we applied for a third time, the process takes so long. Needless to say my father continued to get worse, he was put under hospice and eventually passed on October 4th. Well we come to find out that we got approved the day after he passed. Then get denied because he passed the day before approval. Thanks for nothing. We cared fir my father with dignity and love no thanks to the V.A. My father served his country with pride. Hopefully all this chatter about making it better for caregivers is true, because it failed us and my father.

    • George Tommila November 2, 2021 at 12:07 pm

      Sorry for the loss of your father and patriot and for the frustration at a time when so not necesary

  20. Glen Stockinger November 1, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    I am both a DAV and VFW Service Officer and can attest to Michelle Padgett’s comments. My frustration comes from the almost endless visits and questions (asked and answered) by the VA (Muskogee OK region) to obtaining approval as caregivers. I have had one spouse say ” I’m done. I don’t have time for their (the VA) endless visits to my home and the same questions being asked”. In my opinion the VA Healthcare system does not know how to administer the Caregiver Program. I have not had one approval of a spouse as a Caregiver.

  21. Joshua Adkins November 1, 2021 at 11:24 am

    I am a lost cause/ Afghanistan veteran. I was medically retired and I can’t work. We applied for my fiance to be my caregiver. In the process of me being asked TO LIST my limitations my brain broke again and I was hospitalized again. According to the person who essentially sent me to the psyche ward it was inevitable and foreseen from her interview. One of the same people who say I don’t need constant support from my fiance who has had to quit 2 jobs already.
    Why is asking the VA for help so challenging and cumbersome? I gave the US government everything that I had and for evidently no reason. Now my fiance who has to physically and emotionally pay to be in a relationship with me can’t get help? Why do we have to struggle?
    I was used and abused and forgotten and the VA is supposed to exist to alleviate the stress of us being alive still. However people who haven’t deployed get to pass judgement on whether or not we deserve help. Financial hardship is known to be a major stressor for individuals yet the VA exacerbates and encourages it if ex-soldiers don’t check the blocks exactly correctly.
    Have you ever asked for help and been disregarded and told no? What if you gave everything you had repeatedly and asked for nothing first? Oh it’s our fault for taking our futures for granted serving the interests of defense contractors.

  22. Eugene Edmund Kramer October 30, 2021 at 10:05 am

    Thank you! Finally we are conscious of the millions of Cargivers that are on the front lines of the effort to care for us Veterans at the point of the spear. God bless and thank you…

  23. Michelle Padgett October 30, 2021 at 6:30 am

    All great words….but action speaks louder. The VA does not value, appreciate or relate/understand Caregivers, this is my opinion and of most Caregivers I know. We/I was part of the Caregiver Program for about 7 years and then removed. My Veteran did not get better or not still need care, it was the VA employees (members of my Husband’s care team) not listening and really hearing what was being said. They thought they were following “protocol” and rules. But, what they did is take his care and total existence back leaps that took long hard years to achieve and 3 and 1/2 years later still have not been corrected or made back. The fight should have ended or at least not been multi by “getting of the battlefield”. That fight was easier and win-able or attainable. This…. Is a constant nightmare, soul-crushing torture dealing with the VA.
    VA Secretary Denis McDonough -if you truly care about the Veterans and from this statement for the Caregivers, then put your actions, not just words.
    Adding other eras than just Post 9/11, is great and I am thrilled for those eras, but don’t make it at the expense of post 9/11. Because, that is absurd. I get it the Government did not expect so many to need the program or need care. But, that should not mean, exclusions should happen. It should mean Government/Congress ….evaluates things.
    Example: my rent went up $120 starting October, that does not mean then I pay less for utilities or my car payment, those bills stayed the same. It means , I find an extra $120 somewhere…. I cut from fun money or re-evaluate my spending.

    At any rate, my opinion and two cents.
    -I am not saying this to be back on the Caregiver program, I agreed with the decision, to out-source. But, unfortunately the job/tasks still needed to be done. All the program did was remove the Stipend-money and I still had to complete the tasks/responsibilities…….my family was placed in a financial hardship and I had to figure out how to add more hours in my day and multiple myself. (Still haven’t figured out how, I just had to do our government’s philosophy of solving problems….p.s. not the correct way) Unfortunately, it cost us our home, belongings and nearly my life.
    So, please follow through with your words and value the Caregivers/families of our Veterans-they do the work our Government does not and that is take care of our Service Members. Our Veterans -Some Gave All, All Gave Some. The families Give All.
    Our enlistment does not end when our Warrior, leaves the Battlefield, honestly our fight begins.
    Again, my opinion.

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