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Learn what the PACT Act means for your VA benefits

Support for those who care for Veterans

Caregiver Picture

Being a caregiver to Veterans means dedicating a lifetime to ensuring our nation’s heroes receive the care they need at all times of day and night.

For many, this invokes feelings of uncertainty, frustration, loneliness, and helplessness, which is why the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) offers support through local and national services like training, counseling, and respite care.

“The Cincinnati VA Caregiver Support team offers two programs to support those who are caring for our nation’s heroes,” said Amanda List, Caregiver Support Program Manager. “The Program of General Supportive Services, or PGCSS, provides services to caregivers of Veterans of all eras enrolled in the Department of Veteran Affairs healthcare… and the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers offers support for caregivers of eligible Veterans who are seriously injured.”

To be eligible for PGCSS, a caregiver must provide personal care services to a Veteran enrolled in VA health care who needs assistance with one or more activities of daily living or requires supervision based on symptoms or residuals of neurological care, impairment, or injury. According to List, services under the PGCSS include peer support, mentoring, skills training, and coaching via telephone and online.

“Locally some of our more popular things are meditation Monday every Monday morning where caregivers can call in and have a telehealth appointment with a licensed clinical social worker and they will walk them through some guided meditation, some chair yoga, or some progressive muscle relaxation,” List explained.

The second program available to certain caregivers is the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC)—often referred to as the stipend program—which provides resources, education, support, and a financial stipend. Some caregivers may also qualify for health insurance and beneficiary travel benefits. Veterans may be eligible for this program if they meet the following criteria:

  • Sustained or aggravated a serious injury or illness in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975 or post 9/11.
  • Have a single or combined service-connected disability rating of 70% or more.
  • Unable to perform an activity of daily living or in need of supervision, protection, or instruction for a minimum of six continuous months.

“An example I like to use of a person needing protection and supervision is a patient that might have some memory impairment,” List explained. “They may physically be able to bathe themselves, but a caregiver needs to be with them to provide instruction or supervision to make sure that they’re safe.”

If approved for PCAFC, Veterans can select a primary caregiver and up to two secondary caregivers who serve as a backup support to the primary caregiver.

Services offered to primary caregivers include:

  • A monthly stipend.
  • Uninsured caregivers may have access to health insurance through Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA).
  • Mental health counseling.
  • Beneficiary travel benefits when traveling with the Veteran to appointments.
  • At least 30 days of respite care per year for the Veteran. Respite is short term relief to give caregivers a break.

Secondary caregivers may receive:

  • Mental health counseling.
  • Beneficiary travel benefits when traveling with the Veteran to appointments.
  • At least 30 days of respite care per year for the Veteran.

According to List, all caregivers may also benefit from national programs like Building Better Caregivers, which is a free, six-week online program that offers training on how to better care for Veterans, as well as help for caregivers to learn how to manage their emotional and physical health. Caregivers, family members, friends, and community partners may also take advantage of the Caregiver Support Line—a toll-free line available to assist with connecting caregivers with their local Caregiver Support Coordinator. The line is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

For more information or to apply for any of the programs mentioned in this article, visit www.caregiver.va.gov, call the Cincinnati Caregiver Support team at 513-475-6366, or call the national Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274.

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