A Caregiver of a Veteran – Survivor’s Guide

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The very first thing to remember is that although this process IS a process, it is very personal to us, the veteran AND the caregiver, or as I call myself, the “Care Bear.”

The following documentation is to help guide anyone who qualifies as a veteran for this grant through the various stages required to complete this process and achieve a successful outcome.

Starting Out

1. Be sure to go to your Regional Veterans Affairs Office and file all necessary forms to receive the Veteran Benefits Eligibility forms or online applications that need to be completed to receive Service-Connected Benefit status. This is much easier now than it used to be and is available by accessing http://www.va.gov and then going to the referenced websites that you need.

2. You should call the Regional Office or while there specifically ask for materials on the Special Adaptive Housing (SAH) grant and get the name and number of the senior housing agent who can handle and process your application.

3. The specific form to download is VA form 26-4555. If your veteran is no longer in active status, you must provide a copy of his/her DD-214. Ideally, once you are determined to be service-connected, a liaison officer with the VA should call you and set up an appointment at your home to review all the benefits (including SAH) to which you are entitled. Now that there is the download availability online, you may just want to follow the instructions for required documentation and forms there.

The Process Itself

1. Be sure to check with the contact person at the VA or online for the current maximum dollar limit on the SAH grant. For 2012 this amount is $63,780.

2. As a result of your online review or meeting with a VA contact person, you should receive a detailed handbook, which is very complete in its specifications of minimum requirements. For example, widths of doorways must be as specified in the handbook, and there are minimum requirements for emergency ingress/egress (i.e., entrance/exit) in case of fire or other emergencies. You must complete a plan that meets all these requirements, or your project will not be accepted.

3. The above process is no easy task unless you know someone in the business. I received a list of local contractors, and 90 percent of them either were out of business or did only commercial or large housing developments. If you know an architect, you can ask him or her for a list of which contractors they worked with in the past.

4. Once you have completed and mailed your application to the appropriate Regional VA Office, you need to determine whether you want an architect to design the plans for your adaptive housing. If not, you need to get three separate bids from separate building contractors. We HIGHLY recommend an architect unless you have a very clear picture in your mind of exactly what you need and where it must be placed. Our architect was invaluable, and even though it was an out-of-pocket expense, the architect worked wonders, as we had many different designs before we met all VA specifications.

5. Regarding the contractors, they need to be made aware that if they want the job, they must first be certified by the VA. This is tedious for the contractor, and you may have to pay him or her something for filing the necessary forms and meeting all VA policy and procedure requirements. It can be done, but it can seem like a daunting task to some. After you get two (2) contract bids, ask for a waiver on getting a third bid. We filed for that waiver, and the VA had no problem accepting it.

6. We cannot stress enough the importance of staying in close contact with your contact person at the VA to advise him or her as to the need for speed depending on your veteran’s physical and emotional condition, and “pushing” the project forward without being too aggressive. That can be difficult to achieve given your own frustration level and that of your veteran. Each person should just do the best he or she can and be prepared to modify some desires/plans based on their importance to the overall well-being of the VA patient.

7. Once a bid and amount is approved (which definitely takes time for detailed study/negotiations between the contractor and the VA, and vice versa), your total grant project is submitted up the line for approval. To prepare the contents of this package, you will be asked to provide a marriage certificate (if applicable), birth certificate, and financial data on your current liabilities and assets. Depending on your age and your marital status, this can be easy or rather complex. Necessary forms will be provided by the VA; just try to be objective and complete them as soon as possible. It’s just part of the overall process and procedure.

Financial Action

1. Once the project is finally approved (hooray!), then you must be prepared for a bit of time to elapse before Treasury cuts the check for the approved amount and then for the check to be deposited in an escrow account, which the VA is willing to set up for you.

2. The VA will send you via mail or online the necessary forms to be signed by both you and the veteran, and then you return these forms to the VA contact via fax or mail. This entire process can take two to three weeks after formal approval. The VA will contact the builder and you to say that construction may now start.

Let Construction Begin!!!

1. Be prepared for several VA site inspections based on the drawdown specifications that were agreed to with you/contractor. There must be an inspection from the VA as each critical process is accomplished in order for the monies to be drawn successfully from the escrow account.

On a personal note, as I was for the most part handling my veteran’s well-being and safety concerns, this process seemed at times overwhelming, but you must just plunge ahead to do the next right thing for your loved one! You will work with many wonderful folks, make new friends, learn a ton of new things, and most important, get the project accomplished right the first time.

Support Groups

Caregivers caring for severely injured Service Members and combat veterans and other family members, friends can rely on other support programs such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Caregiver Support Program a federally-funded program that provides services to assist family caregivers of veterans. For more information contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator: National Caregiver Support Line at 1 (855) 260-3274. In addition, the National Family Caregiver Support Program provides services to assist family caregivers. Each state offers different amounts and types of services such as caregiver training, respite care, accessing support group services and much more. But sadly to say, most caregivers care for loved ones alone.

Caring for veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries, Alzheimer’s care, Personality Disorder, Dementia, Heart Disease/Stroke, Parkinson’s care, Multiple Sclerosis, Visual Impairment, Amputee, Sexual Trauma, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be overwhelming. The caregiver must on a day-by-day basis managed and deal with declining abilities and difficult behavior. The caregiver can seek support groups and respite care for assistance. Remember getting help from others can benefit you and receiver of care.