November is National Family Caregivers Month, and MOAA wants our military caregivers to know we appreciate your service and sacrifices every day of the year.
Often referred to as "hidden heroes," these brave and selfless warriors epitomize MOAA's "Never Stop Serving" motto - and MOAA will never stop serving and supporting our military caregivers.
In 2010, MOAA lobbied successfully to get the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act(Public Law 111-163) signed into law. It provides comprehensive support services and benefits directly to family caregivers of eligible veterans with a serious injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. The VA Program of Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), as it is formally known, includes education and training, respite care, mental health services, beneficiary travel, a monthly stipend payment, and access to health care through the CHAMPVA program to individuals with no health insurance coverage.
Almost eight years later, just before the 2018 Memorial Day weekend, MOAA and dozens of other organizations representing millions of veterans managed to score another important legislative milestone, that is, signing into law one of the most historic pieces of veterans health care legislation in decades called the VA MISSION Act - a bill that expands the comprehensive caregiver assistance program to veterans of all eras.
Yet, with such significant advances in recent years MOAA's not done advocating on behalf of caregivers and veterans. We will continue to press for VA's comprehensive caregiver assistance program to be expanded to include veterans with catastrophic illnesses and diseases - a change MOAA has sought from the early days of working the bill.
In 2014, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation sponsored a study by the RAND Corp. called Hidden Heroes: America's Military Caregivers to “shed light on the number and characteristics of the military and veteran caregivers population and the burden they face in providing informal care and support to current and former U.S. service members … Of the more than 20 million veterans living in the U.S., there are about 5.5 million individuals who were providing care and assistance to a current or former member of the U.S. armed forces, 20 percent (1.1 million) were supporting an individual who served in the era after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”
With the need so great, MOAA will continue to press Congress, the VA and the administration to make sure VA has the authority, funding and resources to provide veterans the care and support they need, regardless of whether it is an injury, illness, disease, or disability sustained as a result of their service to the nation.
In the next couple of years, MOAA will be working with VA to implement the new caregiver provisions in the VA MISSION Act. In addition to expanding the PCAFC to include veterans of all eras, the bill also provides financial planning and legal services.
Financial planning and legal services have long been important areas of need for caregivers. To fill that gap MOAA partnered with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in 2014, launching Tips For Lifelong Caregiving Guide.
Before VA can expand the various caregiver services outlined in the MISSION Act, the department must first implement an information technology system that fully supports the PCAFC and certify to Congress that the system allows for data collection, monitoring and assessment of veterans and caregivers enrolled in the program. Once certified VA will roll out the program in two phases - the first phase covering eligible veterans serving on or before May 7, 1975, followed by remaining veterans.
In a statement last week, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said, “Caregivers make tremendous sacrifices to address the daily needs of Veterans who served our nation. These mothers, wives, fathers, husbands and other loved ones deserve our recognition and support for all they do to care for Veterans.”
There is still a lot of work ahead in implementing the MISSION Act. In the meantime, the VA encourages caregivers and veterans to learn more about the PCAFC and what other caregiving resources are generally available by clicking here.
MOAA looks forward to sharing more details on VA's PCAFC implementation plan and ask members to stay tuned for more information and ways you can help honor military caregivers through your advocacy efforts.