Navigating the Veterans Affairs Caregiver Program: What You Need to Know
Did you know that over 17.4 million veterans live in the United States? Many brave veterans have sacrificed their lives and safety for their country. The government is grateful for their contribution to America. To repay them for their sacrifices, they have set up various programs for veterans that could support them and their caregivers after duty.
One of these programs, the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), offers enhanced support for Family Caregivers of eligible Veterans. The program provides financial assistance and resources to caregivers of eligible veterans.
There is a lot to navigate when applying for this program, with several steps to take throughout the application process. But don’t worry; we’ve created a helpful guide to assist you in maneuvering through the ins and outs of this great program.
What Is the Veterans Affairs Caregiver Program?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs created a program for eligible veteran caregivers called the “Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC).”
The program is of national stature, with offices located within VA facilities. The VA Caregiver program’s mission is to promote the health and well-being of family caregivers who care for veterans through clinical support services, education, and resources.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) helps Families and Veterans with severe injuries that occurred on or after September 11, 2001, or/on or before May 7, 1975.
How Does the Program Work?
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers allows veterans to designate one Primary Family Caregiver and up to two Secondary Family Caregivers on the application to support them while they care for a veteran.
Upon application approval, primary caregivers can receive the following:
- Monthly monetary stipends
- Access to health insurance through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA).
- Must have at least 30 days of respite care per year for relief from caregiving duties. For respite care services, visit Nurse Next Door respite care.
- Mental health counseling
- Will receive beneficiary travel benefits, including transportation reimbursement for traveling with the veterans to medical appointments. For more information, visit here.
Secondary family caregivers can receive the following:
- Mental health counseling
- Beneficiary travel benefits for traveling with the veterans to appointments.
This program for veteran caregivers is an excellent resource for those who are already caring for veterans or wish to access VA caregiver support services.
Who Is Eligible and Who Qualifies for VA Caregiver Stipend?
There is a lengthy application process with strict eligibility criteria. Wait to run for the hills because we’ve made it a little simpler for you by breaking down who is eligible for this program and how to apply below.
Veteran Eligibility Requirements:
To be accepted into the VA Caregiver Program, you must first meet the following eligibility criteria as a veteran:
- Veterans must be enrolled in VA health care.
- Veterans must have a service-connected disability rating of 70% or higher. This means veterans would have been injured in the line of duty, and the VA must rate the veteran 70% disabled or higher to qualify. The VA Health Administration will rate the veteran’s disability using their criteria and determining whether or not a veteran is highly dependant (needs 40 hours of care or more), moderately dependent (needs 25 hours of care per week), or has a low dependency (needs 10 hours of care or less).
- The VA must rate the veteran’s disability as “substantial” due to their service-connected disability.
- The veteran must have already received six months of personal care services due to the same disability.
Caregiver Eligibility Requirements:
To be eligible, caregivers must meet the following criteria:
- 18 years old or older
- Must be considered a spouse, child, parent, step-parent, step-child, or extended family member of the veteran and / or
- Live full-time or fully intend to live full-time with the veteran as their designated caregiver.
Visit the VA eligibility fact sheet for more information.
How Do You Apply Into the Program?
To apply for the caregiver support program, Veterans and their caregiver(s) must apply together to be considered eligible. Both caregiver and Veteran will need to sign the application, answer all questions, and date the application when submitting.
Every time a veteran wants to add a new family caregiver to their care team, they must submit a new application together with the new family caregiver. Note that there can only be one primary and up to 2 secondary family caregivers designated at any one time.
If for whatever reason, the Veteran cannot make decisions; a legal representative may fill out the application in their place on their behalf. Legal representatives must upload proof of their legal authority on the application.
Veterans and family caregivers may apply:
- via mail,
- at a local VA office.
For more information on applying, visit the VA caregiver support program website.
Step 1: Prepare for the Application
The first step in the application process is preparing your documents before applying. We’ve listed the following requirements so that you feel fully prepared to proceed with the application with ease:
- The address, telephone number, and date of birth for the Veteran and each family caregiver applicant
- The VA medical center where the Veteran will receive care
- Health insurance information for the Primary Family Caregiver
- Veteran’s Social Security number (SSN) or tax identification number (TIN)
- Ensure the Veteran is enrolled in VA Health. You can apply to VA health care here.
Step 2: The Application
You can apply online, in person at a local VA office, or by mail. We recommend using the online application system for easy access, which will take roughly 15 minutes to complete.
Ensure both parties (family caregivers and veterans) fill out every question on the application and meet all eligibility requirements for the program of comprehensive assistance.
Step 3: Next Steps
After applications are submitted, decisions are usually made within 90 days. Take a look above at the decision tree diagram sourced from the Veterans Affairs website for more information.
Typically, applicants will receive a phone call from a Caregiver Support Coordinator from the VA Medical Center where the Veteran plans to receive care. They will discuss the eligibility and application status and, hopefully, answer any questions you might have.
Comprehensive Assistance Program Application Support
If you need help with the application, there are comprehensive assistance and caregiver support coordinators who can assist you.
Call the VA Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 for help.
Other Caregiver Support Programs
If, for whatever reason, you’re not eligible for the program, there is another program called “general caregiver support services” instead.
The General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) is a different support program that provides mentoring, skills training, coaching, phone support, and resources to caregivers of veterans.
Visit Veterans Affairs VA website for more information.
How Nurse Next Door Can Help
A wonderful thing about the PCAFC is the added support of respite services for family caregivers. Looking after a sick loved one is a full-time job, and it is much needed for family caregivers to have a well-deserved break from time to time.
Nurse Next Door’s respite programs give family caregivers of veterans the space away from their caregiving duties to recharge and return to the person they care for with more energy and renewed focus. Our respite services support the primary caregiver’s well-being and ensure you care for your own health.
Talk to us about how we are helping veterans and providing family members with respite care services today.
Call us at 1-877-588-8609 today for more information on how we can help!