VA offering support for caregivers

Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer November 28, 2012 02:14 pm

Here’s something to think about as November, National Family Caregivers Month, comes to a close: when the job of looking out for a veteran hit by illness or injury overwhelms, help is close by.

It’s a message being spread by Edward Parker, a caregiver support coordinator with the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Walla Walla. In observance of the dedicated month, he visited clinics through the Walla Walla VA’s service area recently, including La Grande.

“There is a big need for this program,” Parker said. “On a national level, there’s over 5,000 veterans caregivers in the enhanced portion of the program.” 

Parker added the VA has identified 500 veterans in an area that includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska, who need caregiver help. About 20 veterans in the Walla Walla service area, which includes Northeast Oregon, have been identified as in need of services.

While there’s an array of services available for caregivers of older veterans, Parker said the VA runs a beefed-up program especially for veterans seriously injured after Sept. 11, 2001.

“If the veteran is post 9-11, the caregiver or spouse may be eligible for enhanced benefits, including a stipend and possibly medical coverage through VA,” Parker said.

Made possible under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, the enhanced program helps caregivers of post 9-11 veterans who suffered injuries including traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma or other mental disorder. Parker said that some non-combat conditions may apply.

“If the veteran is injured or has an injury that was aggravated during service after 9-11, they may be eligible. That includes injuries that happen in training,” he said.

While the VA is paying special attention to modern-era service members, there remains a range of services for caregivers of veterans who served during Vietnam, World War II and Korea. They include adult day health care, home-based primary care, skilled home care, respite care, home hospice care and more.

Parker said that turnout at his La Grande informational session was small, with five or six people coming to ask questions. He said that within Union County, two post 9-11 veterans with caregivers have qualified for the enhanced program.

Parker said he believes there may be more out there in need of help.

“I do know there are others that haven’t been identified,” he said.

Caregivers in need of immediate assistance or having questions about what services they may be eligible for should call the VA’s caregiver support line, 1-855-260-3274. Parker can be reached at 509-525-5200, ext. 22936.