VA Caregiver Assistance Drops Dramatically in Colorado

VA Caregiver services decline in ColoradoA recent article in the Denver Post comments on the amount of revocations for caregiver assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Rocky Mountain region has a higher rate than all but one of the 21 regions in the country. The VA enacted the caregiver services program in 2010. According the Department of Veterans Affairs website, there are various services available to family caregivers of veterans, including a monthly stipend, mental health services and counseling, home-based primary care, skilled home care, home health aide, respite care, and more. A revocation is when the VA states that a caregiver no longer qualifies for assistance.

Denver’s Unusual Treatment

The Denver Post piece provides several instances where the Denver VA medical center appears to have treated the caregiver services program unusually, including:

  • Denver handled the most appeals of its decisions of any medical center in the country according to 2013 data. It had 69 appeals; other medical centers averaged 3.
  • From May of 2014 to March 2015 the number of approved caregivers grew by ¼ nationally; however, Denver and its satellite clinics decreased the number of approved caregivers. Just 7 of 141 medical centers in the U.S. reported a large decline.
  • Network 19, the Rocky Mountain region, has dropped caregivers at a rate exceeded only by the region that covers Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.

Number of Applicants

When the program started in 2010 the number of caregivers qualifying was relatively low; however, in the past year a study estimated that 1.1 million spouses and other relatives are caring for post 9/11 veterans in their homes. The VA has estimated that 4,000 caregivers would be approved through the 2014 fiscal year, but 30,000 applied and more than 15,000 were approved by May of 2014.

According to the Denver Post, as applications continued to grow, some doctors stopped performing medical assessments of veterans seeking caregiver assistance. To be eligible for this program, the veteran must have sustained a serious injury, including: traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma or other mental disorder, which was incurred in the line of duty on or after 9/11. The veteran must be in need of personal services because of an inability to perform one or more activities of daily living and/or requires supervision because of symptoms.

Lawsuit over Delayed Appeals

In relation to the caregiver assistance issues, a story from the New York Times covers a Vietnam veteran who filed a class action against the Department of Veterans Affairs seeking to force the department to expedite a growing backlog of benefit claim appeals, including his own appeal. The veteran filed an appeal on his denial of benefits in 2013; 20 months later he still had no response regarding the appeal.

According to the article, while the VA has been determined to clear the backlog of new benefit claims, the number of appeals has risen 17%. Added to that increase, the amount of time to reach a decision on the appeal has also grown. The article even mentions that there has been wait time of four years or more!

Check this article out about the VA relaxing the 40-mile rule for private medical care for more positive news about the VA.

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