Legislation Improves VA Caregiver Programs: TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act

Veteran Caregivers Act

Legislation Improves VA Caregiver Programs: TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act

The VA offers many resources for caregivers of veterans. These programs support some of the most important members of veteran’s clinical care teams – caregivers. Reports of veterans and caregivers losing access to these valuable resources have recently led to the Transparency and Effective Accountability Measures (TEAM) for Veteran Caregivers Act.

The TEAM for Veterans Caregivers Act became law on December 31st, 2020, and requires the VA to formally recognize caregivers in the electronic health records of veterans. Caregivers covered by the act include those participating in the following programs.

  • Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
  • Program of General Caregiver Support Services

Approximately a quarter of the 9 million veterans that the VA serves each year require caregiver support. Under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), eligible caregivers receive training, a monthly stipend for providing home health services to the veteran, and additional important benefits like health insurance coverage and mental health services.

The PCAFC was originally designed only for caregivers of post 9/11 veterans. It is currently undergoing expansion to include caregivers of veterans from all eras. Losing these important benefits threatens the livelihood of veterans and is synonymous with job loss for caregivers.

RELATED: VA Caregiver Program Expanded

Caregivers Dropped from Programs

In 2018, NPR covered veterans whose caregivers were unexpectedly dropped to a lower level of support or from caregiver programs altogether. The stories of these families highlight the importance of caregiver programs to veterans and their caregivers. In NPR’s coverage of their stories, Quil Lawrence explained that caregivers in these VA programs provide home health services that would cost the VA millions of dollars.

After losing VA caregiver program benefits, these caregivers continued providing care for the veteran. Caregivers are most often spouses or other family members functioning as around-the-clock caregivers of veterans. These families need and deserve the benefits offered by VA caregiver programs.

RELATED: VA Support and Resources for Caregivers

TEAM for Veterans Caregivers Act

The TEAM for Veterans Caregivers Act improves transparency and communication preventing unexpected loss of benefits. The act takes the following steps to improve the VA Caregiver Programs:

  • Formally recognizes caregivers. By ensuring all caregivers are included in the veteran’s electronic medical record, communication between caregivers and the VA is improved.
  • Standardizing notification letters. The act requires the VA to use standardized letters to notify veterans and caregivers of decisions. It also requires the VA to provide an explanation with information that would be necessary to file an appeal.
  • Benefits extended. The act authorizes the VA to temporarily extend benefits after a veteran is determined to be no longer eligible for the program.

These steps prevent the sudden loss of benefits experienced by the caregivers in the NPR stories. Formally recognizing caregivers and standardizing notification letters improves communication. Including important information in notification letters and temporarily extending benefits allow veterans and caregivers to appeal decisions that do not accurately reflect their situations.

The VA offers a long list of caregiver support programs and resources. The efficacy in which they are delivered is undergoing steps to improve and expand these programs to meet the needs of veterans and caregivers. The VA is the largest hospital system in the United States and it is not a perfect system. The TEAM for Veterans Caregivers Act moves the needle in the right direction.

 

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About the author

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Chelsea Bostelman is a registered nurse who stays busy with freelance writing, exploring Europe, and working on a graduate degree in nursing. She founded the Stuttgart Nurse Journal Club to provide underemployed nurses with free continuing education opportunities. A 10-year military spouse, she and her family spend their free time hiking, biking, and eating in southern Germany.