Day 11: 2011 Marked Milestones in VA’s Recognition of Caregivers

November 11, 2011

By Deborah Amdur, LCSW, ACSW, Chief Consultant, Care Management and Social Work, Department of Veterans Affairs

In 2011, after nearly 150 years of honoring Veterans through benefits, health care and honorable burials, VA paid direct compensation to the Family Caregiver of a Veteran through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. That first payment marked a milestone in the recognition of the vital role family members and loved ones share in caring for our most seriously injured heroes who have given so much in defending our freedom.

Since that first payment rolled out in June, more than 1,800 Family Caregivers have been approved for the program, receiving monthly stipends that average between $1,500 and $1,800. Through the program, Family Caregivers have also received comprehensive training in how to better care for their Veteran and themselves. More than 400 Family Caregivers also received health care coverage they previously did not have.

Indeed, these have been great successes in showing Family Caregivers how important they are to VA. VA has long recognized that Family Caregivers providing care in a home environment can improve the health and well-being of our Veterans. The old saying that “there’s no place like home” is true. I think we all know that people are happier and often healthier when they can receive care at home surrounded by family and friends. Family Caregivers make this happen for even the most severely wounded Veterans, but not without great personal sacrifice fueled by love and deepest commitment.

That is why VA went further to honor this commitment in 2011. In order to make sure every Family Caregiver caring for a Veteran that served in any era can receive the support they certainly deserve, VA now has Caregiver Support Coordinators at every VA medical center. We hope that Caregivers will take advantage of the support and assistance these dedicated staff can provide. Additionally, our national Caregiver Support Line 1-855-260-3274, opened February first. Our Support Line staff provides counseling, support and helps Caregivers connect to needed resources and services in their local community. We have responded to more than 20,000 calls since we opened and every day, we are gratified to share in the lives of so many and to be able to offer support to the Family Caregivers of Veterans from all eras.

We also encourage all Caregivers to take a look at our Caregiver Website, www.caregiver.va.gov. Our goal at the site has been to provide the kind of information you have told us you want. You will find descriptions of more than two dozen programs we offer for all Caregivers, as well as tips and advice on care giving and ideas for how to take time to take care of yourself.

In the course of my 20-year career in VA, I have had the honor of working with spouses, mothers, fathers, siblings and others who leave their jobs and uproot their entire existence to focus on caring for a Veteran who will forever bear the consequences of war. Although most Family Caregivers have no clinical training, and only a vague idea of the challenges they will face, they jump right in to care for their severely injured American hero. These Caregivers are heroes as well. They deserve our recognition and need our support. They are our partners in health care, providing a far more vibrant existence for the Veterans they love, and providing measures of independence that improves their health, and their quality of life. Supporting Family Caregivers is supporting Veterans and VA is proud to be doing more than ever before to increase the support available.

I hope we have conveyed the enormous respect that we have for Family Caregivers and the amazing sacrifices they make on a daily basis. We hardly consider our jobs finished in this regard. In fact, we are just getting started. Our dedicated staff is constantly seeking new ways to provide greater support and expand the possibilities that will enrich Caregiver health and knowledge. We are here for you – we urge you to visit our website, make an appointment with your local Caregiver Support Coordinator, or call the Caregiver Support Line and let us know how we can help. On behalf of a grateful Nation, thank you for your service.

Resources:

1) VA Caregiver Website: http://www.caregiver.va.gov/

2) VA National Caregiver Support Line 1-855-260-3274

3) FCA:Caregiving and Veterans Information

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2011 Marked Milestones in VA’s Recognition of Caregivers by By Deborah Amdur, LCSW, ACSW, Chief Consultant, Care Management and Social Work, Department of Veterans Affairs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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