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Have VA Caregiver Benefits Expanded?

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Veterans of all eras will be eligible for caregiver benefits starting Oct. 1, an expansion that is expected to add thousands of families to the program in the next year.

There has been a lot of promising news lately about additional benefits being paid out to veterans for various situations by the VA. How about for caregivers of those veterans? Have VA caregiver benefits expanded? As advocates of Veterans and their families, Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law makes every effort to pass important Veteran information to our readers.

Military Times’ recent article entitled “VA caregiver benefits expand to all vets on Oct. 1” reports that roughly 43,000 veterans are currently enrolled in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC). It is designed to support and compensate full-time caregivers providing at-home assistance to severely wounded veterans. However, many families feared they would be dropped from the program in 2023.

The move was originally scheduled to take place in 2020. However, had been delayed two years as officials refined processing and support for the program. Currently, only veterans who served before May 1975 or after September 2001 are eligible for the benefits.

Dr. Colleen Richardson, executive director of the program, said officials anticipate adding about 16,000 more families over the next year.

“Our caregiver support line is ready, we will have double the number of staff on board in case anyone has any issues or concerns,” Richardson said of the Saturday start date for the expansion.

Stipends vary based on where veterans reside but generally are about $3,000 a month for the most severely wounded individuals and $1,800 for others in need of around-the-clock care. The VA also provides training and medical support for eligible veterans and family members.

The PCAFC took heat last year when the VA announced plans to review the cases of “legacy” participants (individuals who enrolled before Oct. 1, 2020) to ensure that they still meet the criteria for receiving benefits. However, after public outcry, the VA leadership announced they would re-examine changes to the eligibility rules and stop all program dismissals. Officials recently said all families currently in the program will be ensured participation until at least 2025, while new eligibility criteria is developed.

At a press conference in September, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said he was confident in the direction of the program but also understands the skepticism among some families. The move is part of the PACT Act, passed this summer to improve benefits for veterans dealing with those injuries.

“They’re in a posture of ‘trust but verify,’” he said. “And we are in a posture of wanting to walk the walk, and through execution earn that trust. It may be challenging, but we’re determined to do it.”

Richardson said officials plan on contacting currently participating families to make sure they understand the recent expansion and reassure them that the moves won’t hurt their benefits. VA officials have also hired 300 new employees in recent months to help with the anticipated additional workload. About 120,000 new applications are expected in the next year. Richardson said based on historical trends, about a third of applications are approved.

Reference: Military Times (Sep. 30, 2022) “VA caregiver benefits expand to all vets on Oct. 1”


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