BY CHUCK BYERS, CHAIR
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. —Thomas Paine
Starting in October, caregivers of veterans who served during the Vietnam War and earlier will be eligible for a monthly payment from the VA. Currently, the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) pays only family members and friends who provided care for those who were severely injured on or after September 11, 2001.
The new regulations cover caregivers of veterans who were severely injured in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975. This new regulation broadens eligibility by expanding the definition of a “serious injury” to include illnesses and diseases from Agent Orange exposure. Veterans are required to have a single 60 percent or a combined service-connected disability rating of 70 percent and require personal care for a minimum of six continuous months. You also have to be enrolled in the VA health care system. You can see outside doctors for your care, but you have to be seen at least once a year by a VA primary care physician.
Disability ratings are assigned by the VA based on the severity of an illness and how much it decreases a veteran’s overall health and ability to function. The Caregivers program is completely separate from VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. For example, a family primary caregiver of a veteran in Dallas who is unable to perform daily living activities or requires continuous supervision would receive approximately $2,800 a month. If the veteran is able to perform some of the daily living activities, the caregiver would receive about $1,750 a month.
According to the VA, “The expanded regulation addresses the complexity and expense of keeping veterans at home with their families who provide personalized care. This will allow our most vulnerable veterans to stay with their loved ones for as long as possible.”
This extra money could keep more veterans at home. The new PCAFC program sounded better than “sliced bread” for pre-9/11 veterans; however, it has been almost eight months since implementation and veterans are still trying to get their “bread” out of the wrapper. Of the veterans applying for this new program, fewer than 10 percent have qualified.
The new rules have made it very difficult to qualify. I would like to hear from members and their caregivers who have tried and were turned down for this program. The VVA Veterans Health Care Committee will continue to fight for this program and will reach out to the program’s administrators. We will keep you informed of any changes and how they will affect Vietnam veterans and their families.