Archive for the ‘Veterans Benefits’ Category

Will VA Benefits Pay for Senior Care?

Veterans Saluting

If you’re a U.S. military veteran who is planning for your own long-term senior care or the care of an aging loved one who is a veteran, you’ve probably considered whether VA benefits could help cover the costs of that care. If this is the case, you’re in good company. According to a 2012 census figures, more than 12.4 million veterans over the age of 65 live in the U.S.. With the average annual senior care costs ranging from $17,680 to $92,378 for care ranging from adult day health care to private nursing homes each year, financial help is essential.

What Are Aid and Attendance Benefits?

The costs of long-term care add up quickly. VA benefits like the Aid and Attendance Benefit can help significantly, even if the veteran’s income is above the limit for a pension. For eligible veterans and their spouses, the Aid and Attendance Benefit can help cover the costs of a variety of types of senior care, including assisted living, in-home care, and nursing home care.

The VA pays Aid and Attendance Benefits to a veteran in addition to monthly pension benefits. These benefits are also paid to survivors of veterans who have been collecting death pensions. Aid and Attendance Benefits may add $700 each month for veterans and $500 per month for survivors. This type of benefit is available for veterans who have served 90 days or more, one of those days being during a time of war.

Who is Eligible for Aid and Attendance Benefits?

These benefits are set aside for individuals who require assistance to perform daily activities, including bathing, feeding, dressing, and getting out of bed. It is also available for patients in nursing homes, those who are blind, and those who are undergoing treatment for a disability. Eligibility depends on whether the veteran is receiving a VA pension or if the veteran’s survivors are receiving a death pension. Either party must provide a primary doctor’s report as evidence of a qualifying condition.

How to Apply for VA Benefits

Applying for veterans’ benefits starts by contacting the regional office for the VA where the veteran previously applied for a pension or the survivor filed for a death pension. The VA will place the veteran into a priority group and make contact when the claim has been filed.

Unfortunately, all too many veterans and their loved ones don’t know that there are benefits available to help pay for the costs of senior care. With these rates rising every year, VA benefits can make a significant difference in the type of care that aging veterans can afford. Housebound seniors and those who require consistent assistance should be aware that they may be eligible for these additional VA benefits.



Veterans Rely on Family Caregivers to Retain Independence

U.S. Veterans have fought long and hard to preserve our nation’s freedom. When they return to American soil, many are left with injuries or PTSD that makes it difficult to return to society in the way they once knew — supporting their families and providing an invaluable service to the county. Aging Veterans grapple with the effects of aging and chronic illness. When you’re used to the rest of the nation relying on your strength and heroism, accepting the idea that you now have to rely on someone else is a difficult reality to face. It’s thanks to the dedicated family caregivers that our nation’s Veterans are able to maintain some semblance of the independence and free spirit with which they’ve come to identify themselves.

U.S. Veterans and their caregivers need our support

There are currently more than 9.7 million living Veterans age 65 and older. In a 2010 National Survey of Veterans conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 21.3 percent of Veterans have applied for VA disability compensation and just 26.8 percent have ever enrolled in VA healthcare. On disability compensation, 66.2 percent say they don’t have a service-related disability — but that still leaves 12.5 percent of Veterans who could potentially take advantage of these benefits but haven’t. And perhaps more shocking, 42.3 percent of Veterans say they weren’t aware there is a VA healthcare benefit.

Veterans aren’t the only ones who need help, however. In addition to the costs of living and healthcare, many family caregivers caring for an injured or ill Veteran are juggling the responsibilities of holding a full-time job while still trying to meet their loved ones’ needs. While there have been some attempts at providing support to Veteran caregivers, the main benefit offered — a monthly stipend — is available only to Veterans who served post-9/11. That means there are hundreds of thousands of aging Veterans whose family members are left struggling to support their families and find a means to provide care. Many Vitenam Veterans, for instance, are now suffering from chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

Existing benefits aren’t available to everyone

There are some strides being made, but financial concerns have so far prevented any real expansion of the program. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed a bill in July that would expand coverage to Veterans from all eras and generations as well as expand the types of disabilities that would qualify a Veteran to receive the benefit. Studies estimate that between 32,000 and 88,000 Veterans who served prior to 9/11 would be able to participate in the program, with cost estimates between $25,000 and $36,770 per person. Congress is hesitant to push forward, first because it’s a new benefit that they feel hasn’t yet proven its value, and second, because the Senate simply can’t find the resources to fund it.

For now, most aging Veterans who could use this extra support rely on VA disability benefits (if they’re even aware they exist) and Social Security benefits to try to get by. Spouses sometimes have to work full or part-time jobs on top of their caregiving duties in order to support their families. In some cases, aging Veterans simply require too much care and can’t be left alone, leaving spouses no option other than to quit their jobs to care for their loved ones full-time. For these families, it seems like a no-win situation.

The good news is Congress is aware that there’s an unmet need, and advocacy groups are doing their best to push legislation forward that will provide much-needed help to older Veterans and their caregivers — but for some, it’s too little, too late. Check out the VA Caregiver Support website from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to learn more about the programs available to support family caregivers of aging Veterans.

We want to hear your opinions. Is Congress doing enough to support our nation’s Veterans? What programs have you found helpful, and what’s missing in the available services for Veteran family caregivers?

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Post by Angela Stringfellow

Our Nations Veterans are a Wealth of Information

Many independent living and assisted living facilities across the nation are celebrating our nation’s Veterans today. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 37 percent of Veterans are in the 65-plus age bracket, compared to just 13 percent of the general population. By 2015, the number of Veterans in the 65 to 84-year age bracket is expected to increase, due to aging Korean and Vietnam Veterans. Veterans have stories to share

Likewise, many long-term care facilities are experiencing higher numbers of Veteran residents as this population ages, so Veterans Day is often a major celebratory event among assisted living, independent living facilities and nursing homes. All residents get in on the fun of honoring those who have served our country, as well as taking the opportunity to learn about history.

Ashby Ponds is home to more than 150 Veterans

Jessica McKay, Public Affairs Manager for Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living property in Northern Virginia, says Ashby Ponds is home to more than 150 Veterans (of just over 600 total residents). Ashby Ponds residents are mostly World War II Veterans and Korean Veterans.  Ashby Ponds is a gated, independent living community with a medical center, fitness center, and aquatic center on campus.

McKay’s advice to caregivers of Veterans is to take the time to talk with them and learn from their experiences. Many aging Veterans have incredible stories to share, some of historical significance, and some even have historical documents in their possession. In her experience, Veterans are always willing to get involved in community activities and are usually open to sharing their experiences.

Ashby Ponds makes an effort to recognize Veterans every year on Veterans Day, but it’s important to recognize the contribution and sacrifice these brave individuals have made for our country throughout the year.  Because Ashby Ponds is located in a highly populated military area, there are several local Veterans groups who come together for area events celebrating the selfless sacrifices these brave men and women have made – and continue to make – for our country every day.

How are you celebrating Veterans Day?

Whether your facility has plans to commemorate the years of service Veterans have dedicated to our country today, or if you have hundreds or just a few Veterans on your campus, take a few moments today to thank a Veteran in your midst and ask them to share their stories with you. Most are willing to open up, and merely asking is a priceless gift that shows you care and value the sacrifices they’ve made.

How does your facility plan to celebrate Veterans Day today? We’d love to hear how you plan to honor the brave men and women who have fought for our country in your community!

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VA Caregiver Conference Wraps Up Today in Washington

The 2011 National Caregiver Support Conference, “Caring for Those Who Care for Our Veterans,” wraps up today in Washington, D.C. The conference is part of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, which has expanded veterans benefits to include the loved ones who care for them. The Act also creates caregiver support services through a caregiver website, a monthly stipend for caregivers of post-9/11 Veterans and health insurance. Caregivers of Veterans need support

This year’s conference was kicked off by keynote speaker Dr. Robert Pretzel, Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary of Health. Dr. Pretzel praised family caregivers as an integral part of providing care and services to Veterans and “full partners with VA.” Staff members from Veterans Administration medical centers across the U.S. are in attendance to learn and share best practices in caring for both service members and the family members who care for them.

While the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 addresses Veterans who served in active duty on or after 9/11/2001, the conference addresses needs of caregivers serving Veterans of all eras. Efforts to aid caregivers also include caregiver training, offered via home study or in traditional classroom format, and the caregiver support website offers a zip code search allowing users to locate the nearest caregiver support coordinator (based at a VA medical center). Caregiver stories, links to relevant resources and ways to connect with the VA program and useful tools, such as medication logs, are also readily available from the program’s website.

Applications for monthly caregiver stipends are already underway; in fact, more than 550 stipends have already been approved at an average of $1,600 per month.

The VA Caregiver Conference is different from the National Caregiver Conference conducted annually by The Family Support Center, scheduled for October 27, 2011 in Iselin, New Jersey. The New York Times bestselling author Gail Sheehey is this year’s keynote speaker, widely recognized for her writing on caregiving and elder care.

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Recognizing Our Nation’s Veterans — and Their Caregivers

Yesterday, November 10, 2010, the United Health Foundation released the results of the first-ever study to examine specific challenges faced by the thousands of caregivers sharing the stress and the joy of caring for our nation’s Veterans. On this Veteran’s Day, let’s honor both the noble men and women who have sacrificed their time, safety, and even their lives to protect us and the caring men and women devoted to caring for our Veterans as they age or struggle with post-combat injuries, disabilities, and diseases. U.S. Veterans

The study, Caregivers of Veterans — Serving on the Homefront, was conducted in collaboration with the National Alliance for Caregiving. A prior study, Caregiving in the U.S., revealed that 11% of caregivers of adults have served in the armed forces, and 17% of adult care recipients are Veterans. Given that the nation’s Veterans present with a unique set of caregiving challenges based on post-traumatic injuries, the United Health Foundation decided to delve deeper into the needs of this group.

The three-part study includes qualitative results from focus groups, phone surveys, and quantitative data from an online survey. Findings are useful for senior care providers, caregivers, organizations that serve Veterans and their families, and policymakers.  Veterans benefits can help ease financial strain and fill in care gaps by offering financial assistance for adult day care, assisted living, nursing homes, home health care, and other medical needs, yet many families still face a significant emotional, physical, and financial toll.

There are many valuable findings from this research, and some statistics contrast with research about the general caregiver population, indicating that this population is truly unique. For example, 96% of caregivers for Veterans are women, compared to just 65% for the general population. The majority of them (70%) are caring for a partner or spouse, while just 6% of caregivers in general care for a partner or spouse. Veterans receiving care are also typically younger than others who receive care from a loved one; 41% are between the ages of 18 and 54.

One important thing to note is that the youngest Veterans who are receiving care, Veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, are usually receiving care from their parents. As this group ages, their needs will be of particular concern, because as their own parents age, care will need to be transferred to someone else, and many of these Veterans have no one else they can rely on. This situation also leads to another potential problem — parents of Veterans in this situation who have no other children will also be in need of someone to care for them as they age.

Other key findings:

  • Caregivers of Veterans are faced with a heavier burden. 65% are in what is considered to be a high burden caregiving situation (a greater likelihood of requiring assistance with activities of daily living), compared with just 31% nationally.
  • Veterans requiring care have a higher incidence of mental illness. 70% report having depression or anxiety, and 60% have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Caregiver strain is higher, due in part to greater care requirements:
    • 68% report high emotional stress (31% nationally)
    • 40% report high levels of physical strain (14% nationally)
    • Nearly half (47%) had to cease working or took early retirement (9% nationally)
    • Half report financial hardship (50%, 13% nationally)

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A Unique Concept in Senior Care: Foster Care for Veterans

Veterans have the opportunity to take advantage of a unique Medical Foster Home Program in lieu of moving into a nursing home once they are no longer capable of living alone. The program is available in select communities across the country, but is quickly being adopted in new regions. Visit the Department of Veterans Affairs for a listing of developing medical foster home programs.

Veterans who may not have family willing or able to take them in when they require 24-hour care can move into the home of a volunteer foster family prepared to assist with activities of daily living and participate in the veteran’s care plan for a monthly fee, usually ranging between $1,500 and $4,000, depending on the level of care required.

Through the program, an Interdisciplinary Treatment Team will make a monthly visit to evaluate the patient’s care needs, provide foster family education, conduct patient care, and ensure that the foster family is appropriately trained to handle the veteran’s care as needs may change over time.

The veteran receiving care is actually responsible for paying the medical foster home family, although the total costs (at the high end) are approximately half of the cost of a nursing home. Medical Foster Homes can be subject to state regulations regarding licensure and usually can be licensed to accept up to three residents receiving care (a total of both veterans and non-veterans receiving care).

Medical Foster Home RequirementsVeterans cap

Individuals wishing to apply to become a medical foster home must meet a number of requirements, per Hartford Wellness Examiner Diana Duel. For example, in Pennsylvania, if you wish to become a medical foster home, you must:

  • Be 21 years of age or older
  • Own or rent your own home
  • Be fluent in English
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Be CPR and first-aid certified
  • Permit monthly Interdisciplinary Treatment Team visits
  • Accept and participate in the veteran’s treatment plan

Overall, the Medical Foster Care Program is an excellent way for veterans to maximize their benefit dollars while having an active choice about where they’ll receive care. For families who become a medical foster home, it’s much more than exchanging room and board for money. Caregivers get the satisfaction of improving the quality of life of a veteran who has served our country, and often benefit from companionship and recounts of times of active service that may otherwise never be shared.

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Expanded Health Services for Veterans

Yesterday, President Obama signed a bill that expands health services for Veterans, The Washington Post reports. It’s called the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, and it includes expanded mental health and counseling benefits, improved maternity care and newborn care for babies born to women Veterans, and allows the Veterans Administration to utilize hospitals outside of its network to provide care for Veterans with brain injuries.veteran

Additional veterans benefits now offered through this new legislation include help and assistance, both financially and non-financially, to caregivers of disabled veterans. Caregivers caring for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will receive a stipend, training to provide specialized services (if needed), counseling, and even lodging if they must travel for their loved one’s medical treatment. In addition, up to 30 days of respite will be provided each year to give caregivers a much-needed break.

Support for homeless veterans will also be expanded under the bill, and a pilot child-care program is being initiated for veterans undergoing intensive medical care.

Services for Women Veterans

Part of this bill is especially focused on women veterans, offering a program that will train VA mental health professionals to adequately care for women who have been subject to sexual trauma, as reported by the Lake Stevens Journal. Focusing on identifying the unique effects the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have had on the physical, mental, and reproductive health of women who served, it will also offer readjustment counseling geared specifically to those unique circumstances.

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