Many veterans’ caregivers qualify for compensation with a little-known Veterans Affairs program.
When Kathy Parker became the primary caregiver for her husband, an Army veteran with stage-four kidney failure, she felt confused, scared, and alone. She didn’t know exactly how to take care of him and felt she wasn’t getting the help they needed from medical staff.
When Parker took her husband to a Veterans Affairs (VA) urgent care center, the VA doctor transferred him to a hospital, where he stayed for a few days. Meanwhile, Parker received a call from the Caregiver Support Program (CSP). The program member was able to set her up with a number of helpful resources, including self-care courses, peer mentoring, and medical equipment assistance.
“There’s a fantastic group of individuals in CSP that are there for us,” Parker wrote in a letter to fellow veterans’ caregivers. “They will throw you a lifeline and not let go.”
A very helpful part of that lifeline is the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), which provides monetary support for veterans’ primary caregivers. The program started in 2011 for post-September 11, 2001 veterans. In 2018, it became available to all veterans and currently has 40,900 participants.
What is the PCAFC?
The PCAFC offers caregivers a slew of helpful resources, including monetary compensation, access to health insurance, mental health counseling, appointment travel benefits, respite care, and legal and financial planning.
Colleen Richardson, PsyD, executive director of the Caregiver Support Program, notes that secondary caregivers can also receive assistance: mental health counseling, appointment travel benefits, and respite care.
Who qualifies for PCAFC?
In order to qualify for PCAFC benefits, you and your veteran need to meet a few different criteria.
First, the person you’re caring for needs to be a veteran already or be in the process of getting a medical discharge. They need to have a serious injury or illness that appeared or was aggravated in the line of duty. The veteran also should require in-home personal care for at least six months, handled by a primary caregiver living with them and no one else. And perhaps most importantly, participating in the program needs to be in the veteran’s best interest.
Once accepted, the caregiver undergoes training regularly, according to Beverly Scott-Reed, of south suburban Olympia Fields, who cares for her husband, Col. Eugune Scott, a 28-year veteran of the Army. “You take caregiving training, and I took other courses and workshops as well,” Scott-Reed says. “You are a professional [caregiver], and have to do everything others have to do.”
What monetary compensation is available?
Eligible caregivers will get a monthly stipend to help pay for costs of care. The VA pays the stipend directly to the caregiver. The amount offered varies based on the caregiver’s location.
How can veterans’ caregivers access the program?
In order to access available compensation, you’ll first need to apply (see below). Then, Richardson says, you’ll have to undergo multiple assessments: a veteran clinical and functional assessments, caregiver assessment, home-care assessment, caregiver training, and a final application review. Typically, applications take less than 90 days to process, and then the program sends the caregiver and veteran an eligibility determination.
While the application process can be daunting, Scott-Reed, who co-chairs the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center Veteran and Family Advisory, says that the VA was helpful about answering questions and assisting with it. “You can get swallowed up, so advocate for yourself and stay on top of it,” she says.
How can a potential participant apply?
Interested caregivers can apply in three different ways. You can use an online application; you can print and fill out an application, and then mail it in with supporting documents; or you can apply in person with your local Caregiver Support Program team. The application is Form 10-10CG.
And remember that you and the veteran you care for earned this compensation. “The program should have been there [a long time ago],” Scott-Reed says. “It is not a handout. [We] work hard and deserve to be compensated for these medical and psychological issues [that] remain from the experience of war.”
She also advises family caregivers to get involved with their local VA, saying, “[Get] involved with the associations and advocacy boards with [your] local VA to make sure the services are suitable for vets [and] also to give a sense of community.”