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Here’s How to Get the Benefits You Need to Care for a Veteran

Make sure you get the caregiving help available to assist someone who has served

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The Veterans Administration offers many benefits to the families and loved ones of veterans, including two programs that offer valuable assistance to their caregivers. This crucial support helps tens of thousands of caregivers around the country provide the best care possible to the veterans who have served their country and now need help in their lives. ​

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You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published twice a month. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

The VA Caregiver Support Program consists of the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) and the Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS). 

The PCAFC provides full-surround support to those caring for veterans injured in the line of duty who have a high level of disability. The PGCSS offers a range of supports and resources for those caring for veterans who need assistance with daily living or supervision.  

Before you can access either of these programs, the veteran you’re caring for must be enrolled in VA health care. There are four ways to apply

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Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) 

The PCAFC is for spouses, dependent children, and family caregivers of eligible veterans who were seriously injured in the line of duty and who meet various eligibility requirements. As of last October, this program is open to family caregivers of eligible veterans from all eras. The veteran can appoint one main caregiver and two secondary caregivers to serve as backups.

Caregivers may receive a financial stipend and health care benefits through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). Also available are caregiver education and training, mental health counseling, financial assistance when traveling with the veteran to receive care, and at least 30 days per year of respite care for the veteran. Caregivers enrolled in PCAFC can also access all the training, mentorship and support that those enrolled in PGCSS receive.

Eligibility: The caregiver and the veteran must meet a short list of specific requirements to qualify for PCAFC. The caregiver must be at least 18 years old and be a spouse, child, parent, stepfamily member or extended family member of the veteran. They also must live full-time with the veteran or be willing to do so. 

The veteran must have:

  • A VA disability rating of 70 percent or higher
  • Been discharged from the U.S. military or have a date of medical discharge
  • Received at least six months of continuous in-person care services

Access: The caregiver and the veteran must apply together. The VA’s PCAFC page provides details of how to apply.

Questions: Contact a local VA Caregiver Support Program (CSP) or call the Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274.

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Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) 

The PGCSS is available to those who care for veterans but are not eligible for PCAFC. Help includes assistance to caregivers (such as peer support and mentoring), skills training, coaching, telephone support and online programs. Caregivers enrolled in PCAFC can access all the resources provided by PGCSS.

Eligibility: A caregiver can use this program for a veteran who is enrolled in VA health care and needs help with one or more daily living activities or who needs supervision due to symptoms of a neurological or other impairment or injury. The caregiver need not be a relative of the veteran or live with the veteran. 

Access: There is no formal application. The best way to access resources is to contact a CSP or call the Caregiver Support Line (details above). A care coordinator will guide applicants through an intake. The caregiver is then listed in the veteran’s health care record.

Bottom line 

Work out which of these programs applies to the veteran being cared for and then work through the various options from there. Also, check out AARP’s comprehensive Military Caregiving Guide for Veterans, Service Members and their Families, along with AARP’s Health Benefits Navigator.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published twice a month. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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