The VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers benefits and services for those who are caregivers serving disabled veterans. There are options for those caring for vets with service-connected medical issues as well as for non-service-connected disabilities. One major VA option for caregivers is the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
This program can help a veteran choose primary and secondary care providers, provide travel and lodging compensation when care is needed, and a monthly stipend for the primary caregiver. There are also options for education and training, and certain health coverage options may also apply.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
This VA program offers support and services for family caregivers of qualifying veterans injured in the line of duty. This benefit was previously offered only to those caring for veterans who served during certain military service eras.
But as of October 1, 2022, thanks to legislation known as the VA MISSION Act, the VA has expanded program eligibility to include “family caregivers of eligible Veterans from all eras who were seriously injured in the line of duty.”
VA Healthcare Enrollment Required
If the veteran and caregiver need this assistance, the veteran must be enrolled in VA health care or must still be on active duty awaiting a medical discharge. To apply for VA healthcare benefits it’s necessary to complete VA Form 10-10EZ. Applying for VA healthcare means submitting some personal data including:
- Social Security numbers for you, your spouse, and any dependents
- Your military discharge papers
- Insurance card information for all insurance coverage including Medicare, private insurance, or insurance from your employer.
- Gross household income from the previous calendar year for you, your spouse, and your dependents.
- Your deductible expenses for the past year and may include approved health care and education costs.
Who Is Eligible
This VA program is offered to those who are at least 18 years old and who are:
- A spouse, son, daughter, parent, stepfamily member, or extended family member of the Veteran, of;
- Someone who lives full-time with the Veteran, or;
- Someone who is willing to live full-time with the veteran if designated as a family caregiver.
The veteran receiving care must meet all of the guidelines below:
- The patient must have a VA disability rating (individual or combined) of 70% or higher.
- The veteran must have been discharged from the U.S. military or;
- The veteran must have a date of medical discharge and must need at least 6 months of continuous, in-person personal care services.
The veteran can choose a single “primary” care provider and two “secondary” care providers who serve as backup for the “primary family caregiver” according to the VA.
The VA official site lists the following benefits offered at press time for primary and secondary family caregivers:
- Caregiver education and training
- Mental health counseling
- Travel assistance
- Other financial assistance when traveling with the Veteran to receive care
Primary family caregivers may also receive:
- A monthly payment.
- Access to health care benefits through CHAMPVA, the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs for those who do not “already qualify for care or services under another health care plan”.
- 30 days per year of respite care.
Applying For Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
The application process for this VA benefit is unique since the caregiver and the veteran must apply together to claim these benefits. Any time the veteran wants to add a new family caregiver, a new application is required.
What You Need To Apply
This is a joint application, the veteran and each family caregiver applicant will need to provide specific information to the VA for approval purposes. This information includes but may not be limited to:
- The address, telephone number, and date of birth of the veteran.
- Address, phone, and birth date for each family caregiver applicant.
- The VA medical center where the veteran will receive care.
- Health insurance information for the primary family caregiver.
- Veteran’s Social Security number or tax identification number.
If you are filling out an application on behalf of the veteran, the VA requires you to be “a legal representative who can make medical decisions for the veteran” and proof of your legal authority is required. This can be in the form of a power of attorney, a medical proxy, or medical power of attorney. This documentation is required and is non-negotiable.
You can have one primary and two secondary caregivers at one time. The VA must determine your eligibility as well as the patient’s, and you must both apply online via VA.gov or using one of the other options available:
By mail: Submit a jointly filled out Application for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (VA Form 10-10CG). Mail the form and any supporting documents to:
Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
Health Eligibility Center
2957 Clairmont Road NE, Suite 200
Atlanta, GA 30329-1647
In-person: Bring a completed VA Form 10-10CG to your nearest VA medical center. Direct this application to the VA Caregiver Support Coordinator at that center. Find the name of your local coordinator at the VA Caregiver Support Coordinator directory, or call the VA directly.
One other way this application process is unique? The VA requests you do NOT send medical records along with your application. The VA will follow up and request the relevant documentation needed.
What Happens After You Apply
Once you have completed and submitted your form, you can expect a VA representative from the Caregiver Support Program to get in touch. This contact should come from someone working at the nearest VA medical center, ideally the place where the veteran plans to get care.
The representative will discuss your eligibility and your options. You may also have a conversation about what to do if you are not eligible for this program. Some don’t realize they have the right to appeal a decision in this area–your caregiver support coordinator can help you learn more about appeal options and other next steps where applicable.
If you are not eligible for this program, be sure to ask whether you are eligible for the Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS). To find out more, call the VA Caregiver Support Line or visit www.caregiver.va.gov. You can also discuss your options with your local Caregiver Support Coordinator.
What Happens If The Veteran Does Not Qualify?
If you are the caregiver of a veteran who is determined to be ineligible for this program may still have access to VA support. There is a second option called the Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS). Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs directly to learn more about this program and how it may help.
If you have not explored your options under this program in a while, it is a smart idea to re-research them as legislation and changes to VA guidelines often change the amount of assistance, the type of help offered, and the associated benefits with the program.
If more than a year has gone by since you last reviewed your options, take a look at them again. You may be surprised at what is open to you since you researched these benefits last time. There may be additional programs or services offered, additional options for training or respite care, and options for enhanced services under upgraded programs.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.