A Guide to Veterans Administration BenefitsMar 22, 2023
A Guide to VA Benefits
By Generationally Prepared
Did the Senior in your life make the personal sacrifice to serve in our nation’s military? If so, the benefits from assistance are key to helping them maneuver different life decisions and living arrangements. The Veteran Benefits Administration can play an instrumental part in affording healthcare and other support services for your Veteran. Their provisions are extensive, and as such, Generationally Prepared has put together a guide for the caregiver to utilize all options available to them in helping their Senior with long-term care. The VA offers support for caregivers in addition to the systems in place to help your Veteran, though there are differences in support depending on your relation to the Senior in your life. Generationally Prepared is here to walk you through the process.
Accessing Your Senior’s Benefits
VA benefits are extensive and potentially difficult to manage for your Senior alone. To access your Senior’s information, form 21-0845 (Authorization to Disclose Personal Information to a Third Party) allows the VA to communicate with you directly to handle your Veteran’s information. Found here, it can be submitted by mailing address (available on the form) or by submitting it online. This form allows customization of what information is released and the time lengths for the disclosure.
For financial decisions, the VA office requires a qualified caregiver to become an official fiduciary for their loved one. While a full guide can be found on their website page, it’s important to note that a caregiver has to go through an interview process—a background check, personal interview, credit report, and recommendations of character references. Once the interview process is complete, a caregiver will have the ability to manage all their Senior’s benefits directly. To apply to become a fiduciary, submit a claim with the beneficiary’s name and VA file number along with your own name and contact information to a VA regional office near you. The list of responsibilities for a VA-approved fiduciary can be found here.
In order to make healthcare-related decisions, form 10-0137 (VA Advance Directive: Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Living Will) is required, and is available on the VA office’s website here. This allows for you as a caregiver to determine medical treatment for your loved one in case they’re no longer able to do so on their own. If your veteran is incapacitated and is unable to sign or fill out the forms, document 21-0972 (Alternate Signer Certification) is necessary to be able to verify the paperwork in your Senior’s stead. Also available publicly on the website, it can be submitted in the same way as the previous forms, online or per the mailing address on the document. You may need to provide a power of attorney upon request as supporting evidence to be your Senior’s agent. If you need assistance filling out information or have general questions for the VA’s office, you can contact them here, or by phone at 1-800-827-1000.
Your Veteran is potentially eligible for a wide range of programs, depending on the nature of their service, disability status, and income bracket. These include:
- General Healthcare
- Disability Benefits
- Pension Plans
- Home Loan Assistance
- Life Insurance
- Burial and Memorial Planning
Click on the links to the webpages detailing the eligibility of your Senior, as well as the range of benefits afforded to your Veteran. Some key things to keep in mind:
- Dishonorable discharge may disqualify your Senior from benefits. Click here for a handout on what could be potentially considered a disqualification.
- Are you a caregiver that’s a family member of your Veteran? If so, you could be eligible for a range of benefits, from healthcare plans to life insurance policies. You can find a list of all relevant opportunities at this link.
- If your Veteran is suffering from a disability that wasn’t received as a direct result from their service, disability benefits from the VA may not apply. More information on the requirements can be found here.
- When applying for benefits through the website or at a regional VA office, paperwork and official documentation will be required, the types varying with what service is applied for. Things you may need could include: Social Security numbers for you (as a caregiver) and your loved one, the military discharge paperwork for your Veteran, Insurance information for all insurers that cover your Veteran currently, proof of financials, and work history. Full lists can be found on the VA website under the applicable section that your Veteran needs benefits from. Go to the respective category and click “How to Apply.”
- Most forms and procedures can be done online, just click the “Sign In” button on the top of the page and create your account.
- To access your Senior’s online benefits, contact the VA directly. DO NOT attempt to change or accept benefits on your Senior’s behalf without prior approval as caregiver.
Benefits for Seniors
In addition to the standard benefits listed above, Seniors also have access to programs tailored specifically for their needs through the VA. These include:
- Geriatric Evaluation to determine your care needs and to create a plan
- Adult Day Health Care
- Homemaker and Home Health Aide Care
- Respite Care
- Skilled Home Health Care
- Palliative Care
- Hospice Care
It’s important to note that receiving financial compensation for a disability alone doesn’t necessarily qualify your Senior for additional care services. Your Senior must be enrolled in a VA healthcare plan and receive care from a VA facility on a regular basis to be able to receive funds for long-term care. To see the full requirements for eligibility, click here.
Breakdown of Long-Term Care Options
Below is a brief description of the standard options available for your Veteran with enrollment in a VA healthcare plan.
Geriatric evaluations can be performed in a VA-associated clinic or hospital, over the phone via Telehealth, or even at home if that’s your Senior’s longer-term care setting. These evaluations will help prepare you by working with medical professionals to make a plan for your Senior, whether they may eventually need more extensive care or not. To set up an appointment, contact the VA or make an appointment at a regional office.
ADULT DAY HEALTHCARE
Adult Day Healthcare is a program Veterans can attend for “social activities, peer support, companionship, and recreation” (per the VA website). The day healthcare can be combined with other support services, such as residential care or long-term home care. Transportation services may be provided if necessary for your Senior.
HOMEMAKER AND HOME HEALTH AIDE CARE
A homemaker and home health aide is a trained professional that can come to a Veteran’s home and help with daily activities and general care. They serve Veterans whatever their age. While they aren’t nurses, they are supervised by a registered nurse overseeing your Veteran’s daily needs. More information is found here.
Respite care is a service that “pays for a person to come to a Veteran's home or for a Veteran to go to an adult day health care program while their family caregiver takes a break or runs errands” (from the VA website at this link). There’s Home Respite Care, in which the VA pays for a qualified individual to help at home while the caregiver takes a break, or they arrange for a Day Program for your Senior to attend. Also available is Nursing Home Respite Care, in which the VA pays (for up to 30 days) for your Senior to live in an approved facility for longer-term breaks for the caregiver.
SKILLED HOME HEALTHCARE
Per the VA website here, skilled home healthcare workers are trained to deal with “nursing, case management, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, wound care, or IV antibiotics.” They can be utilized in combination with other care services and are performed by a community-based home health agency that has a contract with the VA. This service is available if your Senior qualifies for community care.
Palliative care aims to restore your Veteran’s life to as much normalcy and independence as possible. Utilizing a team that could include medical providers, social workers, and mental health providers, the VA will work to relieve stress and control symptom management. Copays may be charged for Palliative Care. More information can be found here.
If your loved one has a terminal condition with six months left to live, they could qualify for Hospice Care. The VA doesn’t charge copays for this service and it’s part of the standard health enrollment package. Hospice care helps maintain the best quality of life possible while respecting your Veteran’s personal beliefs and wishes. Further details can be located at this link.
ADDITIONAL CARE SERVICES
While the care options previously mentioned are a part of the standard package, your Senior may qualify for additional assistance depending on their needs and eligibility. These include: VA Community Living Centers, Community Nursing Homes, and State Veteran’s Homes. These choices may not be covered in full, but the VA can sometimes assist in mitigating costs if they’re not. Medicare and Medicaid are also options to help assist in affordability.
Caregiver Support Options
The VA offers two different programs for caregivers in assisting with their loved one’s needs: the Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) and the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC).
The Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) is the core of the VA’s support system for caregivers. It includes “Peer support mentoring, skills training, coaching, telephone support, online programs, and referrals to available resources to caregivers of Veterans.” The Veteran must be enrolled in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and be receiving assistance from a caregiver in order for the caregiver to participate.”
To enroll, contact your local facility’s CSP Team/Caregiver Support Coordinator, found at this link. You will need to complete an intake with the program, then you can enroll and take advantage of its services. Your complete range of assistance options can be found here, from coaching to respite care.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) is an assistance package for “the eligible Veteran’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, stepfamily member, or extended family member.” To qualify, you as caregiver must also live with your Veteran full-time. You can receive through this program:
- A monthly stipend, depending on prior income, paid to you directly
- Access to health care insurance via the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (CHAMPVA)
- Mental Health Counseling
- Possible beneficiary travel benefits
To enroll, you can do so online at the link here, or by filling out form 10-10CG and mailing it to the address also listed at the link. There’s also a support line for caregivers by calling 1-855-260-3274. A brief pamphlet on the support line can be found by clicking here.
We at Generationally Prepared value your Veteran’s service, and we hope this guide can serve as a tool to help navigate the VA’s system. If you have additional questions, more information can always be found at their website or by contacting the VA directly. Different programs have different eligibility requirements; to make sure your Veteran is receiving the full amount their allotted to, you can find a collection of welcome materials and key handouts here. With the VA’s assistance, the next steps in your Veteran’s journey can become clear with the assurance of a support system that can provide for every eventuality.