HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The families of veterans can face challenges every day, especially when taking care of their loved ones. It can be difficult, and sometimes expensive, especially if you don’t know about the resources available to you.
That’s where the VA Caregiver Support Program comes in. The program bridges the gap between in-need veterans and caregivers who support them. According to the VA’s website, “eligible Veterans who have incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975, or on or after September 11, 2001. This program provides resources, education, support, a financial stipend, and health insurance (if eligible), beneficiary travel (if eligible), to caregivers of eligible Veterans.”
Still Serving Veterans says its primary mission is to help veterans and families with v-a benefits.
But Terri Womack, the team chief of veterans support services, says many people don’t even know they have resources available to them.
“We get a lot of family members who are trying to figure out how to help a veteran or a surviving spouse and they don’t know about that benefit,” said Womack.
The VA caregivers support program helps veterans or surviving spouses with assisted living or in-home care.
Tiffany Watson, who takes care of her grandfather full time, says she didn’t know about the VA benefits her grandfather had until she kept hearing it from his sister.
“If you need assistance, it’s really hard and you don’t know where to start and the paperwork you can look at it and you just get overwhelmed,” she said.
Watson added that if it wasn’t for the care and patience that Womack had with her, she would have given up because of how lengthy the VA paperwork can be.
Womack says the application process can be difficult, but after Watson came with her paperwork they sat down together to work through all of it.
“So she helped me fill out each and every form,” Watson said that for three years she was paying out of pocket for her grandfather’s care, “But she said basically you know you can get assistance for taking care of your grandfather and I said I had no idea.”
Womack says that’s what her team is there for, “Whatever questions they have or help they need, they can just call and make an appointment and we’ll go through it page by page like we did with Mrs. Watson.
Theresa Vollor, Caregiver Support Program Manager says through different platforms they are able to support their caregivers and provide them with the best tools to help their veterans and surviving spouses.
“Our mission is really to offer education, resources, and community support for caregivers,” said Vollor. She added that there are over 5.5 million caregivers nationwide. It is important to provide them with as many recourses.
Those resources can be found online where caregivers can read modules, attended webinars, and more.
The caregivers program has now expanded to two– a general caregivers program and comprehensive assistance for family caregivers. For a breakdown of those programs and who qualifies, click here.
The VA not only wants its veterans healthy and happy but also their caregivers, that’s why the VA makes sure to always check in on their team members.
“One of the counselors called and I was in the field and I got her voice mail and she said, ‘you know I’m just calling to follow up with you, see if there is anything you need, see if you needed a break, see if you needed somebody to talk to because we just want to make sure that you’re health is good because obviously you are your grandfather’s caregiver so we need to make sure you’re taken care of yourself,” Watson said.
Not only was it heartwarming, but Watson said that it was a breath of fresh air.
Staff Sergeant Howard E. Stearns says he couldn’t be more grateful for how his granddaughter and the VA has helped him.
“But since we have I really appreciate everything and everybody and if you need help, ask for it,” Stearns said.