Veterans Affairs’ Caregiver Benefits & National Support Line
Service members returning from deployment may be coping with physical injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) or psychological health concerns such as combat stress or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can affect the entire family – particularly primary caregivers. Taking care of your veteran requires real strength. Whether it’s handling the household chores, assisting with daily hygiene activities, taking your veteran to appointments or just being there in their time of need, caregiving takes endurance, commitment and patience. You are not alone. There are resources available to help you care for your loved one, as well as provide support and help you manage the stresses that can occur with being a caregiver.
Families can learn strategies and skills for supporting veterans affected by visible or invisible wounds through resources like the National Caregiver Support Line sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Whether you’re looking for information on what to expect with your veteran’s condition or learning about VA services that could help in providing care, licensed VA social workers, health technicians and local Caregiver Support Coordinators are available to support you and your entire family. This article also highlights the various benefits available to qualifying caregivers, including an additional assistance program to support those caring for eligible post-9/11 veterans.
National Caregiver Support Line
It is important for caregivers to know how to reach out for support and to access VA services. The VA established a National Caregiver Support Line to answer questions and provide resources.
The National Caregiver Support Line Toll-Free number is 1-855-260-3274. The support line is open during the following hours:1
- Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Eastern Time
- Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time
All calls to the Caregiver Support Line are answered by VA employees who are also licensed clinical social workers and health technicians. Talking to someone who understands what life is like as a caregiver can provide you with the emotional support to stay strong and attend to your own daily needs. Without assistance in managing the responsibilities of being a caregiver, you may experience stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, financial challenges, or effects on your personal health.2 The support line can provide some helpful tips on making sure that, while working hard to care for a loved one, you are also taking care of yourself, such as:
- Maintaining healthy eating and sleeping habits
- Avoiding isolation
- Sharing your experience with others
Callers to the support line can also receive referrals to a caregiver support coordinator in your community. These coordinators can provide information on new benefits available to veterans and caregivers. Caregiver Support Coordinators are available at every VA Medical Center, and you can also find their contact information online using your zip code.
The VA offers an online Caregiver Tool Box that can answer questions and help manage the stresses associated with your efforts. The Tool Box also includes checklists, tip sheets and care sheets on managing conditions that are affecting your loved one, such as PTSD [PDF 335.1 KB].
VA Caregiver Benefits
The VA caregiver support website offers valuable information on services for caregivers, as well as advice on resilience and support to deal with new responsibilities. The various services that may be available to family caregivers of veterans through Caregiver Support Services include:2
- Adult Day Health Care Centers
- Home-Based Primary Care
- Skilled Home Care
- Homemaker and Home Health Aide Program
- Home Telehealth
- Respite Care
- Home Hospice Care
Additional Benefits for Post-9/11 Veteran Caregivers
The VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers assists the caregivers of veterans severely disabled from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eligibility for this program is for veterans who need a high level of home care due to a serious injury, including traumatic brain injury or psychological trauma, sustained in the line of duty, on or after September 11, 2001. The additional benefits can include:3 4
- Monthly stipend
- Mental health services
- Travel expenses, including lodging and per diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care, respite care and mental-health services and counseling
- Access to health-care insurance, if not already entitled to care or services under a health plan
Applications for benefits can be processed by telephone at 1-877-222-VETS (8387), in person at a VA medical center with a caregiver support coordinator, by mail or online. The online application asks a few initial questions to determine whether the veteran might meet eligibility criteria established for the program. Current eligibility rules include a requirement that the veteran must be unable to perform daily living activities on their own, or need supervision or protection due to their injury or impairment, and they must be enrolled in VA health services. After applying, a team from the VA will coordinate arrangements with your veteran to complete a clinical eligibility assessment.
Visit the Real Warriors Campaign Message Boards to read stories from other caregivers as well as to share your experiences.
You can also access the Caregiver Fact Sheet [PDF 59.51 KB] for eligibility news and information on the application process and additional assistance can be found by via phone at 1-877-222 VETS (8387). Check out the VA’s Caregiver Support Services website to learn more on the benefits and services available through the program.
- Caring for Yourself While Helping Support Your Service Member
- How Parents of Warriors Can Support Reintegration
- When You Become Your Spouse’s Caregiver
- Partners of Veterans with PTSD – Common Problems
- Caregiver Support
- TBI Care Coordination
- TBI Family Caregiver Curriculum
1 “New VA Support Line Provides Important Assistance to Caregivers,” Department of Veterans Affairs Published Feb.8, 2011.
2 “Caregiver Services,” VA Caregiver Support, Department of Veterans Affairs Last accessed Jan. 28, 2013.
3 “New Services for Family Caregivers of Post-9/11 Veterans,” Department of Veterans Affairs Last accessed Jan. 28, 2013.
4 “New and Enhanced VA Benefits Provided to Caregivers of Veterans,” Department of Veterans Affairs Published Feb. 9, 2011.