A year ago, the VA launched a review of its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), reevaluating eligibility criteria and pausing expulsions from the program. As that review continues, the department has been working fervently behind the scenes to assess and make improvements to better meet its congressional mandate.
Fraught with problems since the VA began implementation in October 2020, MOAA and other veterans service organizations (VSOs) and stakeholder groups have been working collaboratively with VA Caregiver Support Program (CSP) staff to help determine what changes the department is able to make to PCAFC under its current authority and what improvements will require legislative action.
[MAY 9 MOAA WEBINAR: How to Choose a Financial Caregiver]
PCAFC is a unique program focused on supporting veteran caregivers, providing eligible caregivers with a monthly stipend; educational support; financial and legal assistance; health insurance; beneficiary travel; peer support; and other resources to aid veterans with the most serious disabling conditions or diseases.
Congress mandated the VA expand the program to veterans of all eras in the 2018 MISSION Act as a result of efforts by MOAA and other advocacy groups to improve VA caregiver benefits and programs.
The Program Today
The VA has designated 2023 as “The Year of the Caregiver.” The department is focused on continuing to implement the PCAFC expansion, reviewing the program, and making recommendations for systemwide improvements.
VA receives about 8,000 PCAFC applications a month, according to information from Dr. Colleen Richardson, CSP executive director, who updated VSOs on program improvements in a March 14 briefing. Of those applicants, 97% receive a decision within 90 days, at a 29% approval rate.
Other program improvements completed or in progress include:
- Established 14 caregiver respite liaison positions in the field, with four hired to date to facilitate support services.
- Efforts underway to recruit mental 54 mental health providers and a caregiver program hub manager to provide mental health resources in the field.
- Created a customer experience survey to capture the voice of the caregiver and veteran. The survey launched in September 2022 with a 26% response rate and 90% satisfaction rate for the program. It measured simplicity; efficiency and speed of service; quality; employee helpfulness; equity and transparency; satisfaction; and confidence and trust. It found that generally, caregivers wanted to be more involved with the patient care team in the delivery of care to their veteran.
- Established a pilot program to train CSP staff to deliver exceptional customer service to caregivers and veterans at four sites, with the plan to expand the initiative across the VA if successful.
- Conduct in-person listening sessions at eight VA Medical Centers. Sessions are underway at locations in Topeka and Wichita, Kan., and in Phoenix, with upcoming sites including San Juan, Puerto Rico (April); Durham, N.C. (June); Denver (July); Washington, D.C. (August); and Montana (September). Virtual sessions also will take place in March, May, October, November, and December.
Additionally, the VA is taking a whole-health approach to supporting caregivers using health and well-being coaches. Finally, the VA is working on its final draft report of proposed recommendations for program improvement, which will be submitted in the next few weeks to the under secretary for health and the VA secretary for consideration before being released to Congress or the public.
MOAA commends CSP staff members for their work and dedication to caregivers and veterans they support. In our March testimony at a joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, MOAA stated our commitment to working with the VA, Congress, and stakeholder groups to monitor and assist the department in meeting the needs of caregivers and veterans to ensure the program conforms to congressional intent.
Additionally, we urged the VA to expand outreach and support to those not qualified for PCAFC and help effectively direct and assist transitioning veterans and their caregivers to the care services they need.
Click here to access Tips for Lifelong Caregiving, a guide produced by MOAA in partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation offering financial and legal resources to help you or a loved one with caregiving needs.
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