VA caregiver expansion policy includes veterans with serious illnesses

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The Department of Veterans Affairs officially published its final regulation to improve and expand the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to include veterans with serious illness—a long-standing DAV priority. The final regulation went into effect Oct. 1.

Now, eligible veterans, beginning with those from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War eras whose injuries or illnesses occurred on or before May 7, 1975, with a single or combined service-connected disability rating by the VA of 70% or higher, will qualify for the comprehensive package of caregiver benefits under the program if they meet certain care-based needs criteria established by the VA.

Only new applications received by the VA on or after the IT certification date, which the VA has indicated will be on or near Oct. 1, will be considered or approved based on the new expanded eligibility for World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War era veterans in Phase 1.

The VA’s comprehensive caregiver support program was established in 2011 to provide family caregiver supports and services, such as education and training, health coverage and a monthly stipend to primary family caregivers of eligible veterans who were seriously injured in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.

However, many seriously disabled veterans and their family caregivers have been ineligible for this life-changing support program because their disabilities were caused by illnesses—not injuries—during their military service.

“The expanded regulation addresses the complexity and expense of keeping veterans at home with their families who provide personalized care,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

Since 2010, DAV has fought to ensure family caregivers of all severely injured and ill veterans are eligible for the same comprehensive caregiver support and services. The VA is also standardizing operating procedures for its caregiver support program, providing new training for staff and caregivers and boosting operational capacity by hiring additional staff. With this expansion, eligible caregivers will also have access to financial planning and legal services.

“DAV has fought long and hard to ensure veterans with service-connected disabilities caused by serious illness were included in these life-changing benefits,” said National Commander Butch Whitehead. “Finally, there will no longer be an arbitrary exclusion based on illness or date of injury.”