Thousands of veterans injured in the line of duty before Sept. 11, 2001, will receive their long-awaited caregiver benefits as early as this summer, when the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is expected to complete a project in support of the expansion and begin taking applications.

“The plan is for us to launch expansion the summer of 2020,” says Lisa Pape, deputy chief officer of patient care services for the VA. “We’re waiting to get our IT system built and working as well as we can. So, we can then launch to expand for all of those caregivers currently not being seen.”

According to a story by AARP, the VA’s aging computer systems have been a roadblock to expanding the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to include veterans injured — mentally or physically — in the line of duty before Sept. 11, 2001. Legislation called the MISSION Act was passed in May 2018 to broaden the caregiving to veterans of all eras.

HELP FOR CAREGIVERS

A veteran can appoint a primary caregiver and up to two secondary caregivers. Benefits vary but include:

Access to health care benefits through the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA)

Caregiver education and training

Financial assistance, lodging and travel expenses for a caregiver when traveling with the veteran to receive care

Mental health services and counseling

A monthly stipend

Up to 30 days of respite care a year

The first phase of the expansion will include veterans injured in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975. After two years, the program will include eligible veterans injured between May 7, 1975, and Sept. 10, 2001.

“We know that with our aging veteran population that people will need caregiving,” Pape says. “And our caregivers will need intervention or help. So, without the MISSION Act we couldn’t do it.”

The VA is now in the process of hiring almost 700 new employees.

“We’re looking to hire social workers, psychologists, nurses, doctors and some support staff,” Pape says.

Other portions of the Mission Act brought greater urgent care and private health options to veterans of all eras in June 2019. However, the New York Times has reported that the program already has insufficient money to support the network mandated in the law.

VA PROGRAMS CAREGIVERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

If you’re a veteran or caring for one, these benefits and services may be available. More information about eligibility is on the VA website.