MVCN Magazine by and for CaregiversFall 2015
Questions and Suggestions from Mil/Vet Caregiver Peers
I am part of the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers and have been Tier 3 since we started. Tier 3 is an indication of a veteran requiring 40+ hours of care per week. I just received a call that we are being dropped down to Tier 1, which indicates that a veteran requires only 10 hours of care per week. I was told this was a clinical decision based on his activities of daily life. My husband’s injuries have not changed (he’s a double amputee)…what am I going to do? This is devastating to our family’s financial situation, as the stipend is paid per tier level. Why is this happening?
Dear Feeling Anxious,
Unfortunately, you are not the only caregiver this has affected. Recently, we’ve heard reports from caregivers across the country being reclassified to a lower-tier level, or simply dropped from the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers altogether – despite the fact that their veterans’ conditions have not improved. We are not sure why this is happening, but I want to assure you that veteran organizations around the country, including the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, TAPS/MVCN, and the Wounded Warrior Project (just to name a few!), hear your concern and are doing everything they can to find out what is going on. You are not alone in this – we are here to help and support you.
In the meantime, several resources can help you navigate this difficult and stressful time.
- Emery Popoloski at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation is willing and able to help connect caregivers with the support that they need with either the application or appeal process. You may email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Wounded Warrior Project has a team of trained personnel who are able to help you navigate the Caregiver Program and understand any changes that are taking place. Visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/family-support/advocacy-for-caregivers.aspx for more information.
- Disabled American Veterans is an organization dedicating to providing veterans and their families assistance in obtaining benefits and services offered through the VA. They can help you navigate the appeals process and determine your best course of action. And, of course, you have the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network, where you can find support and resources to alleviate the disruption that this change might be causing.
We know that this is an isolating, stressful experience. We hope these resources provide some small comfort as we work to fill in the gaps that this phenomenon is causing.
It never fails. My veteran daughter always seems to have a meltdown over the holidays. As her mom, it is frustrating because I would love to have that Norman Rockwell holiday where everyone is happy and smiling. As her caregiver, I know that is an impractical expectation. What can I do, as her caregiver, to make the holidays as stress-free as possible for my daughter?
Hoping for Happy Holidays
The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of year for many people, not only veterans. Holidays often involve exhausting travel, sleeping in a strange place, being in a house crammed with people who have a history together, and being around other strong personalities. Planning ahead and having backup plans in place should help immensely. If you are attending a gathering of people together, come up with some kind of gesture or sign that she can discretely get your attention with to signal that she’s had her limit and needs to go. If the kitchen madness is too much, give her a place to escape to, like a den or spare bedroom. Keep an eye on her throughout the event, and be prepared to step in to relieve some of her anxiety if she is “cornered” by a well-meaning friend or relative. You could always start a new tradition, order takeout, and enjoy being together without the stress of cooking for a crowd. But above all, just BE there- be aware and be ready and willing to act as a buffer for your daughter so that she can focus on visiting and catching up without wondering who has her back if something happens. Be sure to visit our Resource Library for more information and ideas. By clicking the magnifying glass at the top right of the page, you can search for keywords and topics, such as PTSD. Also look into specific programs the DoD and VA offer related to PTSD, including through the National Center for PTSD and for women veterans including the Women’s Trauma Recovery Program.