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VA expands program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center has moved forward with the plan set forth by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to expand the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

The expansion of PCAFC will include eligible veterans that have a single or combined service-connected disability rating by VA of 70% or higher, regardless of whether it resulted from an injury, illness or disease.

This is a notable change to the definition of serious injury from the current regulations, among other improvements aimed at standardizing the PCAFC and improving transparency in the program.

“The expanded regulation addresses the complexity and expense of keeping veterans at home with their families who provide personalized care,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This will allow our most vulnerable veterans to stay with their loved ones for as long as possible.”

Expansion of VA’s PCAFC to eligible veterans of earlier eras will occur in two phases. The first phase has begun and will include eligible veterans who incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty in the active, military, naval or air service on or before May 7, 1975. Phase two will go into effect in approximately two years and will include eligible veterans of all eras.

“Expanding the program and eligibility for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers ensures we can continue to meet the changing needs of America’s veterans and their caregivers,” Wilke added.

Additionally, the new regulation will change the PCAFC stipend payment methodology, define new procedures for revocation and discharge, and include certain advance notice requirements aimed at improving communication between VA and PCAFC participants as well as include information for current program participants. VA is also standardizing operating procedures for the Caregiver Support Program, providing new training for staff and caregivers, and boosting operational capacity by hiring additional staff. With this expansion, Primary Family Caregivers in PCAFC will also have access to financial planning and legal services.

“We are serving about 68 local veterans and their caregivers at the moment,” said Kathy Wahoviak, a registered nurse and coordinator for the family caregiver support program at the OGJVAMC. “We expect to see more applications with the expansion thus adding to our current total of veterans and caregivers.”

VA’s Caregiver Support Program offers support services for caregivers including training, peer mentoring, respite care, a telephone support line, and self-care courses for caregivers of covered veterans enrolled in VA health care who need personal care services.

Caregivers can visit VA Caregiver support website or call the Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274 for questions.

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