When a Veteran returns home from deployment, their spouses are always happy to see them safe. Sadly, many married Veterans don’t return in full health. Many return with long-term or permanent disabilities that require the care and attendance of their spouses for years to come.
Caring for a disabled spouse can be difficult to bear alone, resulting in major financial strain. Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides several programs and means of compensation to pay spouses who care for their disabled Veterans. Read on to learn more.
The primary compensation program for the spouses of disabled Veterans is the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC). This program is intended to compensate the spouses of disabled Veterans for their important role in supporting their health and wellness. It also recognizes that many spouses act as primary caregivers for their families.
In essence, the VA normally provides Veterans a stipend or financial benefit so they can pay for caregivers or nurse assistants. If a family member takes on this role, that family member could receive that stipend or financial benefit instead.
If you assist a loved one in their activities of daily living, you should look into caregiver support programs. Help from a caregiver at your local VA can help supplement your income, increase Medicaid options, and diversify the support services you can afford.
Before applying for the PCAFC, knowing whether you qualify is important.
As of October 1, 2022, the PCAFC is available for all family caregivers of eligible Veterans of all military eras. If you are a spouse of any disabled Veteran, you could qualify for this if you meet the other eligibility requirements below.
Family caregivers, such as the spouses of disabled Veterans, must meet these eligibility requirements:
Furthermore, a Veteran must meet eligibility qualifications for their spouse to receive the PCAFC financial benefits, including:
For the PCAFC, “personal care services” include assistance to support a Veteran’s health and well-being, satisfy everyday needs like feeding and dressing, and provide safety or instruction in a Veteran’s daily living environment.
The application process for the VA care program is straightforward. As a result, care providers should determine the primary care recipient and other caregivers of Veterans before filing paperwork. If you have health insurance, this may also affect your in-home care benefits and Medicare coverage.
Attorneys can help you navigate these complexities.
In the PCAFC, the Veteran can appoint one primary family caregiver. This is the main caregiver for their medical and personal care support needs. They can also support up to two secondary family caregivers, who work as backup support individuals for the primary caregiver when it is necessary.
All caregivers can receive education and training, mental health counseling, and financial, travel, and lodging assistance when traveling with a Veteran to ensure they receive adequate care. However, only the eligible primary family caregiver will receive most benefits.
A Veteran may appoint their spouse as their primary family caregiver. If they do this, the primary family caregiver may receive the following:
Note that the benefits and stipend income are not taxable, further improving the benefit of this financial assistance.
You’ll receive compensation if you qualify as the primary family caregiver and receive a monthly stipend under the PCAFC. The VA will pay you your monthly stipend based on factors such as:
Stipend payments are made at Levels 1 or 2. Level 1 payments are given to caregivers who need substantial care and if the Veterans are still more capable than more disabled cohorts. These are approximately 62.5% of the maximum monthly stipend rate.
Level 2 payments are given to caregivers who can’t self-sustain in their communities. This means they require constant supervision and assistance with three or more daily activities. Level 2 payments are always made up to the maximum monthly stipend rate.
Furthermore, a caregiver/spouse’s final stipend will be affected by how many hours they have to work per week (based on how many hours of care the Veteran requires each week). This can range from low tier (up to 10 hours of work a week) or high tier (or up to 40 hours a week).
While the PCAFC is the primary program you should apply to if you are a spouse taking care of a disabled Veteran, you may also qualify for additional compensation or benefits programs.
The Veteran Directed Care (VDC) program is available to all Veterans of all ages who are currently enrolled in the VA caregiver support program. This consumer-directed benefits option assists Veterans who require skilled medical services and assistance with various daily activities, like dressing, managing medication, waving, and so on.
Specifically, disabled Veterans receive individualized budgets to pay for their needed medical care. Veterans can choose to spend this by hiring their spouse to provide the needed care for them.
Under the VDC program, the health services provider receives an hourly pay rate set by the VA Healthcare administration. The local level and economy also affect this pay level, so caregivers living in high-cost-of-living areas will receive more money.
Note that Veterans don’t receive cash through the VDC program. Furthermore, your Veteran spouse technically hires you to be their caregiver, so the VA does not pay you directly.
You may additionally qualify for the Aid and Attendance pension. This cash benefit is intended for Veterans and surviving spouses who require long-term care assisted living or nursing care in the home. The A&A pension may allow you to receive compensation to provide care to your Veteran spouse.
With this program, you do receive a monthly cash allowance. Single Veterans with no dependents, for example, might receive up to $2229 per month. However, married Veterans could be entitled to up to $2642 monthly. If you are a surviving spouse, you could be entitled to up to $1432 per month, even if you don’t have any dependents.
The best part of this program is that you can use the money however you see fit. You can use it to help take care of your spouse, pay bills, and so on. You also may qualify for this benefit even if your spouse is no longer living and doesn’t require your assistance to take care of their medication or other daily needs.
If you’re married to a disabled Veteran and act as their primary caregiver, you could be entitled to compensation from the VA. You can and should apply for as many programs as possible. You deserve financial assistance for peace of mind and home stability, just like disabled Veterans do. However, before a recipient spouse is able to apply for disability support, the disabled Veteran in question must receive a Rating Decision from the VA.
If you are a Veteran who needs to file a disability benefits claim with the VA or appeal an existing decision, the knowledgeable, experienced attorneys at Berry Law may be able to help. Contact us today to learn more about VA disability ratings, appeal a denial of disability ratings, increase your disability rating, and beyond.
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