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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

 

VA Kicks Off National Caregiver Support Conference

Aug. 3, 2011, 08:00:00 AM

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WASHINGTON – Dr. Robert Petzel, Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Health, gave the keynote address Aug. 2 kicking off the 2011 National Caregiver Support Conference, “Caring for Those Who Care for Our Veterans.” 

The training conference, Aug. 2-4 in Washington highlights VA’s support of caregivers of all eras, with plenary sessions featuring national experts in care giving. 

The conference follows the implementation of landmark legislation by VA that provides a direct benefit for the first time to designated, approved family caregivers of eligible Post 9/11 Veterans, which includes monthly stipends and health insurance.

"Family caregivers are full partners with VA who help to ensure that Veterans receive the top-quality care they have earned,” said Dr. Petzel.  “Expanded services will support family caregivers, improve their self-care, provide training and help them connect with each other for support and encouragement.” 

Veterans and Servicemembers undergoing medical discharge may be eligible for the family caregiver program if they incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or after 9/11/2001, are in need of personal care services, and meet defined eligibility criteria.  

The conference is part of the comprehensive program of caregiver support that VA is implementing.  

“Staff from VA medical centers across the country are attending to share best practices and gain new understanding of the unique challenges faced by family caregivers of Veterans from all eras,” said Deborah Amdur, chief consultant, Care Management and Social Work Service.   

The department began accepting applications for caregiver stipend and benefits payments by mail, telephone and online May 9.  As of July 26, there have been 1,644 total applications received and in process.  To date, 567 stipends have been approved with a monthly average of $1,600.

In addition, caregiver support includes the new caregiver website that was launched May 31.  The website -- www.caregiver.va.gov -- is now averaging more than 1,481 hits per day, 4.5 pages viewed per visit, for a total of at least 6,649 pages viewed daily. 

As one of the primary outreach tools to reach caregivers and Veterans of all eras, the website includes a zip code search feature to locate the nearest VA medical center-based caregiver support coordinator, links to existing VA social media, and information on future caregiver-specific social media features.  

In collaboration with Easter Seals, the VA core caregiver training continues to be conducted through home study as well as traditional classrooms.  Classroom training was conducted June 9-10 in Silver Spring, Md.; July 7-8 in Reno, Nev.; and July 21-22 in Augusta, Ga.  An additional 13 classroom training sessions are scheduled nationwide in the next 90 days.  More classes will be scheduled as requested.  Online training will be available Aug. 5.

VA’s Caregiver Support Line (1-855-260-3274), located at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center in New York has responded to more than 12,132 calls since its inception Feb. 1.  Clinical social workers respond to calls, provide information and referral to VA and community resources, and offer supportive counseling to callers from across the country.  Since May 21, the Caregiver Support Line has been staffed 24/7. 

Congress created the new benefits for family caregivers of eligible Post 9/11 Veterans in legislation known as the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (PL 111-163), which was signed by the President in May 2010. 

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