Some Military Caregivers Lose Benefits While Rolls Grow

More than a million Americans are providing care to disabled Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. About 40 percent of these caregivers are young spouses. Photo Courtesy: Department of Veterans Affairs

A report broadcast this week by National Public Radio’s Quil Lawrence found that certain VA centers were dropping caregivers of severely wounded Post 9/11 veterans from a VA support program.

The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers was created to provide additional benefits to caregivers of Afghanistan and Iraq combat veterans. The support can include health insurance, respite care and a monthly stipend. But as Lawrence found more than 20 percent of the VA centers are purging their caregiver rolls:

But the VA is infamous for lacking consistency from station to station. And while the program has added 6,300 caregivers since 2014, according to VA data, NPR discovered that 32 out of 140 VA medical centers were cutting their programs during the same period — some drastically.

That included the VA in Fayetteville, N.C., which used to send Alishia Graham a monthly stipend of about $2,000 and offer her health insurance, respite and support.

Fayetteville cut more than half of its caregivers, dropping 314 families from the rolls between May 2014 and February 2017. And while data from the VA in Washington showed seven staff at Fayetteville were coordinating caregivers (a ratio of 37/1), the Fayetteville VA shows only two staff are doing that job, meaning that each coordinator is actually overseeing more than 125 veterans.

Check out the full NPR story and the top eight VA centers that pared down their military caregiver programs and the top eight centers that increased enrollment. At the top of the growing programs is the Phoenix VA with a 208 percent jump in caregiver enrollment between 2014 and 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Veteran Unemployment Rate Falls to 6.6 Percent Overall

The First Lady delivers remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Business Steps Up: Hiring Our Heroes” event in Washington, D.C., Nov. 10, 2011. Photo courtesy of the White House.

The unemployment rate for all veterans is at a three-year low of 6.6 percent and well below the national average of 8.1 percent according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment among post-9/11 veterans, however, remains above the national average at 10.9 percent although a 32-month trend is downward according to VAntage Point.

While much remains to be done, since January 2012, post-9/11 Veterans have now experienced the lowest unemployment rate in any combined eight-month period since 2008—with the rate reaching single digits in five of those months. Additionally, the trend over the past 32 months—since January 2010—remains downward for America’s most recent Veterans.

Job fairs sponsored by “Hiring Our Heroes” continue nationwide. The September job fair schedule is available HERE.

Additional information on veterans employment and military spouse employment is available through Joining Forces, the White House program that serves military, military spouses and veterans.

The VA Family Caregivers Program Now Taking Applications

Family caregivers for wounded warrior, Kevin Kammerdiener of the 173rd Airborne, could be among those who qualify for the new caregiver benefits. Photo from Kammerdiener's welcome home in October after a hospital stay in Texas.

Congress expected the Department of Veterans Affairs to have the Family Caregivers program up and running by the end of January.

The VA just concluded its first week for open applications. More than 625 Veterans,  Service-members and their Family Caregivers have applied for new services under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act 2010, according to a press release from the VA.

The services for primary Family Caregivers of eligible post-9/11 Veterans and include a stipend, mental health services, and access to health care insurance. Comprehensive Caregiver training and medical support are other key components of this program.

If the Family Caregivers or veterans don’t qualify for this program, the VA provides more than two dozen other Caregiver benefits.

HOW TO APPLY:

– OVER THE PHONE: Call the Caregiver Support Line at (855) 260-3274

– IN PERSON: at a VA medical Center with a Caregiver Support Coordinator

– ONLINE: at  www.caregiver.va.gov with the new Caregiver Application (VA Form 1010-CG).  The website application also features a chat option that provides the Family Caregiver with a live representative to assist in completing the application form.

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