If you are caring for loved ones who are veterans, be sure to find out if they are eligible for any benefits, pensions, or services. The VA can seem complicated so it's great to get help.
- The first thing to do is contact the VA Caregiver Support Program at their toll-free number 1-855-260-3274 or visit their website.
- Explain your loved ones' military service and their current care needs; ask what help might be available.
- Be aware that VA programs, benefits, and services vary according to the details of your loved ones' military services (such as dates served, war-time service, disability ranking, etc.) Never assume your loved ones don't qualify - always ask and get all of the facts and details.
- You can also contact one of the certified Veterans Service Organizations, local organizations with volunteers who help you navigate the VA, apply for pensions/benefits etc.
- My parents' estate planning attorneys had a lawyer who focused on benefits and he helped us apply for my dad's Aid and Attendance benefits at no cost.
These are some of the supports your veteran may be eligible for, so be sure to ask about all of them and anything else that may be available:
- Pension, Aid and Attendance, and Housebound benefits - cash support to help pay for care
- Free or low-cost medications, medical equipment, incontinence supplies etc.
- Grants to help pay for home modifications
- Home-based primary care - doctors, nurses, home health aides, therapies etc. at home
- Home health, personal care and respite care
- Home hospice care
- Light housekeeping
- Mental health care
- Social workers/case management
- Care at VA medical centers
- VA nursing homes
- VA home loans and refinancing
If you're caring for a veteran, you can also get free respite care from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF) and Carelinx through their Respite Relief Program. It's a simple online application or you can call (202) 249-7170.
You may need documentation of your loved ones' service, such as their DD-214 discharge papers or other proof of their service. If you're having trouble finding those documents, ask the VA Caregiver Support Program or EDF how to find them.
These AARP resources may be very helpful to you:
Navigating veterans benefits and supports can be arduous, but I found it well worth it as my dad received some extremely helpful supports. So get some help, and stick with it and I hope you'll find some things that ease your caregiving budget and help you provide the best care for your veterans.
Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert
Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving