Caregiver support program expands - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center

 

Caregiver support program expands

Caregiver photo

Caregivers of Veterans from the World War II, Korea and Vietnam eras are now eligible for assistance under VA's expanded caregiver support program.

By David Walter
Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Thanks to the government, Kevin Thomsen is bracing for more work.

And to him, that’s a good thing.

Thomsen oversees the Caregiver Support Program at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, and on Oct. 1, a provision of the Mission Act which expands the program was launched.

While the details can be somewhat complex, the bottom line is that the move means more people who provide critical care to ailing Veterans will be eligible for financial and other support through VA.

“I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to provide more support to additional caregivers taking on this labor of love in their homes,” Thomsen said. “It’s great that we can offer this.”

Previously, the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) was limited to Veterans who incurred a serious injury or medical condition, directly related to their service, on or after Sept. 11, 2001. Now, the program is open to Veterans injured on or before May 7, 1975.

That means Veterans from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War eras are now eligible.

Two years from now, VA plans to open the program to Veterans of all eras.

In addition, the types of ailments eligible for compensation have been expanded to include illnesses as well as injuries.

“Previously, the law specifically said ‘injured’; there was no caveat for medical conditions,” Thomsen said. “Now, we no longer have to make that distinction. We no longer differentiate if the care is for a service-related condition.”

As an example, Thomsen said, previously a Veteran who developed multiple sclerosis after his service would most likely not be eligible. Or a Veteran being treated for post-traumatic stress order who later suffered a spinal cord injury in a car crash would typically not be eligible for care related to the crash.

“The eligibility assessment is much more formal and objective and much less nebulous and subjective,” Thomsen said. “This should be much more considerate, much more fair.”

Thomsen said it is too soon to know how many more caregivers in the Milwaukee VA’s area will be added to the program. Nationally, it has been estimated that 41,000 new families could be added to the program that now serves about 20,000.

“When we went live last Thursday, we had an outpouring of interest,” he said. “We had a significant increase in the number of calls and referrals, and we anticipate that will continue for a while.”

Though the program is now open to more caregivers of Veterans, Thomsen stressed there are still many benchmarks that must be met in order to qualify.

“This is for people who really, truly require their caregivers in order to remain safe in their home and community. This is for those caregivers who are preventing institutionalization in a hospital or nursing facility.” Kevin Thomsen, Caregivers Support Program manager, Milwaukee VA Medical Center

Specifically, the disability requiring care must be rated at 70 percent or higher, and the Veteran must need continuous, in-person care.

Caregivers who help a Veteran once or twice or week would not be eligible.

“This is for people who really, truly require their caregivers in order to remain safe in their home and community,” Thomsen said. “This is for those caregivers who are preventing institutionalization in a hospital or nursing facility.”

However, Thomsen is quick to point out that VA offers support for all who are providing care to Veterans, even if the injury or illness doesn’t meet the 70 percent threshold.

The Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) provides education and training in a variety of modalities and formats for caregivers in addition to linking them with community resources.

“We want to support family caregivers any way we can,” Thomsen said. “If they’re not eligible for PCAFC, we still want to offer PCGSS services and discuss how to help them, even if it’s just talking with them, lending a supportive ear, giving them other options or telling them who else they can talk to.

“Regardless of eligibility, we really try to do what we dan to help them. We try to acknowledge what each of them is going through and do what we can to help.”

For more information on the expanded Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, go to:

Or contact Kevin Thomsen at 414-384-2000, ext. 45740.

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