Amy Colver, LCSW
Melody Griffith, MSW, LMSW, OSW-C
AOSW Communications Director
Jeanice Hansen, LCSW, OSW-C
To submit a story or information for inclusion in a future issue of AOSW Newsletter, contact Amy Colver or Melody Griffith on the list above.
Clinical Content: Helping a Veteran Access VA Benefits
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mission is to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise—“To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan”—by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.
Before I began working for the VA, I found the system mystifying. How do you contact the right person? What services should I be asking for? Often times I find one of the greatest barriers is the lack of knowledge related to available resources. So here is a list of resources I compiled to help oncology social workers who work with veterans outside the VA system.
A. Home- and Community-Based Services
- Home-Based Primary Care is health care services provided to Veterans in their home. A VA physician supervises the health care team that provides the services.
- Home Health Aide (HHA) is a trained person who can come to a Veteran's home and help the Veteran with self-care and daily activities. HHAs are not nurses, but they are supervised by a registered nurse who will help assess the Veteran's daily living needs. HHAs work for an organization that has a contract with VA.
- Hospice & Palliative Care is part of the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package. All enrolled Veterans are eligible IF they meet the clinical need for the service. Copays may be charged for palliative care, but there are NO COPAYS for HOSPICE care whether it is provided by the VA or an organization with a VA contract.
- VA Community Living Center. Formerly called a nursing home. Veterans may stay for a short time or, in rare instances, for the rest of their lives. It is a place where Veterans can receive nursing home level of care, which includes help with activities of daily living and skilled nursing and medical care.
- Respite Care is available to Veterans in their home or in an inpatient or outpatient setting.
- A Community Nursing Home (CNH) that the VA contracts with to provide nursing care for Veterans. Eligibility for a CNH is based on clinical need and setting availability. The VA will only pay for CNH care if the Veteran meets eligibility criteria involving service-connected status, level of disability, and income.
- State Veterans Homes are facilities that provide nursing home, domiciliary or adult day care. They are owned, operated and managed by state governments. VA does not manage State Veterans Homes.
- HOPTEL/HOMETEL or Fisher House provides accommodations for Veterans and sometimes their families while they are away from home for medical care. Each VA has its own policies and procedures.
- Caregiver Support Program is offered in a face-to-face setting or on the telephone. The program provides emotional and peer support, and information.
- Beneficiary Travel Program provides mileage reimbursement or, when medically indicated, "special mode" (ambulance, wheelchair van) transport for travel to and from VA health care. Eligibility criteria can be confusing.
B. Financial and Other Forms of Assistance to Veterans and Their Dependents From the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). Contact your local VBA (not your VA social worker) for assistance with the application. Click here, or call 800-827-1000 to discuss the following benefits. The VA social worker can explain the VBA benefits, but it is best for a VBA Counselor or Veterans Service Officer to apply on the Veteran’s behalf.
- Disability Compensation is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to Veterans with disabilities resulting from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. The benefit amount is graduated according to the degree of the disability on a scale from 10 percent to 100 percent. This is commonly referred to as “Service Connection."
- Veterans Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime Veterans. Generally, a Veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a wartime period to qualify for a VA Pension. If the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, he/she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty with at least one day during a wartime period. There are additional eligibility requirements.
- Aide & Attendance is a benefit for wartime Veterans and their spouses who are eligible for a VA pension (see above) and require the aid and attendance of another person, or are housebound. These Veterans may be eligible for additional monetary payment. These benefits are paid in addition to monthly pension.
- Burial Benefits for eligible Veterans may include: burial in a National Cemetery; Headstone, Marker, or Medallion; Burial Flag; Burial Allowance; Military Funeral Honors; and Presidential Memorial Certificate.
VA Health Care Enrollment can occur in one of four ways: on-line, by mail, by phone, or in person. Click here, or call 877-222- VETS (8387), 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Fri, EST.
A suggestion I make to those of you working outside the VA system is to contact the Social Work Department at the local VA Medical Center to help you find the right contact person. The social workers in the Medical Center are not centrally located, but the department can direct you to the correct person.
You can also call the Veteran’s outpatient primary care physician’s office to reach a primary care social worker. All Primary Care Clinics have social workers assigned to them. The Primary Care Clinics are located throughout the Medical Center catchment area. When you speak social worker to social worker, you will be able figure out what is needed for the Veteran and how to access it for him/her.
And lastly, there are many Veterans who do not get their care at the VA. They have many reasons why they choose to get their care elsewhere. They may have anger at the government, or travel long distances for care, or believe that only the poor Vets get their care at the VA. I often tell Veterans who are not enrolled in the VA, “Go see a VA PCP twice a year. You will be eligible for VA services and pay little to nothing for your prescriptions.” This often peaks their interest in applying for VA services.
About the Author
Jennifer Dimick, LISW-S, OSW-CHematology/Oncology Social Worker
Department of Veteran Affairs