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VA Memory Care Resources for Veterans

By Melissa LeeMarch 24, 2022
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According to current research, veterans who have experienced combat and other military-connected traumas are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other types dementia, as well as other memory-related illnesses. There is evidence this risk is due to traumatic brain injury (TBI), neurotoxin exposure, proximity to frequent explosions and gunfire, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Memory care is expensive and can pose a significant burden to aging veterans and their families.

However, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides VA benefits for memory care, memory care facilities for veterans, and other government programs through the Veterans Health Administration to help support veterans with memory-related illness and dementia.


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First steps: VA health care services

The first step to accessing memory care funding for a veteran is to determine their VA eligibility and enrollment status and to outline needs.

  1. If the veteran is not enrolled yet, check to see if they meet the eligibility requirements for VA health care. Once eligibility is determined, they should apply for enrollment.
  2. If the veteran is already enrolled, they should have access to VA health care services.
  3. If the veteran is a dependent and their caregiver has power of attorney, this can, in some instances, be used to enroll on the veteran’s behalf. The VA can give you further instructions.
  4. It is also a good idea for the veteran and their chosen caregiver to complete the Shared Decision Making (SDM) worksheet through the VA. This collaborative worksheet helps the veteran, their caregivers, and their health care team outline the veteran’s goals and options for long-term care services.
  5. If the veteran is unable to participate in SDM, the veteran’s family caregiver can complete the Caregiver Self-Assessment Worksheet through the VA to navigate services available to caregivers through the VA.

How much money can a veteran receive for memory care?

With the median cost of memory care communities at $5,430 a month, according to A Place for Mom’s most recent community survey, it is essential for veterans and their families to understand how much money they may be eligible to receive through their military-connected status. The money available for memory care services through the VA varies greatly depending upon a veteran’s unique circumstances. A veteran’s service-connected disability rating, current financial status, discharge status, and more may play a role in the VA benefits and health care services provided. You can learn more by reading this Veterans Benefits Guide by A Place for Mom.

There are many ways to fund memory care if you are a veteran or their surviving spouse — from VA financial benefits, like pensions and the Aid and Attendance benefit, to specific VA health care programs and memory care facilities.

Financial benefits that may be used for memory care

The VA offers financial benefits that can give eligible veterans and their surviving spouses money to pay for their needs into retirement. These benefits can assist military-connected people with the costs of memory care.

VA Pension and VA Survivors Pension

Some veterans may be eligible for monthly payments from the VA through the Veterans Pension program. However, eligible veterans must meet stringent guidelines to qualify for these payments. Generally, a veteran must meet wartime service and financial need requirements, but each situation is unique.

If a person is a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, they may be eligible for similar monthly payments through the VA Survivors Pension. This pension offers support for eligible surviving spouses who meet financial requirements set by the U.S. Congress.

These programs give veterans and their surviving spouses additional financial support and increased flexibility when considering memory care options. In other words, this money may be used however the veteran or surviving spouse decides to use it, including at any private-pay memory care community of their choosing.

Military pension

Veterans with 20 or more years of military service may be eligible for a military pension. Those who joined the military prior to 2018 and are eligible for a military pension will fall under the legacy High-3 System, which offers a lifetime monthly annuity. A military formula determines the monthly amount the veteran will receive. This amount can vary greatly and is calculated at 2.5% of the veteran’s highest 36 months of basic pay. Veterans can calculate what they’re eligible to receive with the Department of Defense’s High-3 Calculator.

The money from this lifetime monthly annuity may be spent however a veteran chooses to spend it, including covering for private-pay memory care at any community of their choice.

If a military retiree wants to learn more about this benefit, they will need to contact the appropriate organization for their branch of services, listed below:

Aid and Attendance benefits

Eligible veterans and surviving spouses may receive support through the VA Aid and Attendance benefit. It can provide supplemental income to a VA pension or a VA Survivors Pension to help pay for long-term care, including assisted living, memory care, nursing home care, or even in-home care. This extra income is actually earmarked to help pay for senior living and caregiving expenses.

The veteran or their surviving spouse must meet specific service, financial, and clinical requirements to receive this benefit. If the veteran qualifies, they can apply through the mail or in-person with the VA Form 21-2680. Take note of a few things before applying:

  • The application process can take months to complete. Make sure to plan for other funds to cover memory care until the Aid and Attendance benefit claim is approved.
  • Payments are typically be made via direct deposit to a veteran or surviving spouse’s bank account. Alternative options may exist for those without a bank, so reach out to your local VA office if this is an obstacle.
  • If the veteran or spouse does not feel comfortable completing the application on their own, they can reach out to accredited professionals on this list of the VA’s accredited attorneys, claims agents, or veterans service organizations (VSO).

VA health care programs for dementia care support

The VA health care programs offer distinct support to veterans with memory-related conditions and their caregivers. Each program has unique qualifications and benefits, so it’s important to research each one to identify the right fit.

Veteran Directed Care (VDC) program

The Veteran Directed Care program places veterans in control of their own health care services. It helps veterans continue to live at home and have more control in coordinating their care. In contrast with traditional veteran care models, VDC gives eligible veterans the freedom of choice. It lets the veteran decide how their budgeted funds are spent.

The veteran can easily adjust their health care team and services as their memory care needs progress, as well as choose which specialists and doctors are on their care team. However, this also means the veteran is responsible for hiring, managing, and evaluating workers. As memory conditions progress, this may become difficult for the veteran to manage independently. In that case, a caregiver with power of attorney may be able to help facilitate the veteran’s wishes.

VDC is only offered through select VA medical centers, so interested veterans should consult the Administration for Community Living’s list of participating VA medical centers.

Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC)

As the marquee program for military-connected caregivers, PCAFC provides support to caregivers of veterans as long as the veteran and the caregiver meet the program’s guidelines. Through this program, a caregiver can be trained and paid to take care of a veteran with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The veteran may name a primary family caregiver and up to two secondary family caregivers.

PCAFC provides caregivers with the following types of support and more:

  • A monthly stipend
  • Access to health care insurance
  • Mental health counseling
  • Respite care services
  • Caregiver training

The chosen caregiver must be an eligible family member or plan to live with the veteran on a full-time basis. The veteran must also meet the following criteria:

If both the veteran and their caregiver are eligible, they can apply online for PCAFC. The VA also offers additional family caregiver program options for those who may not qualify for PCAFC at this time.

Home Improvement and Structural Alterations (HISA) program

As dementia progresses, a person may experience mobility issues and have trouble navigating their home. Mobility decline remains common with many types of dementia, according to the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders. This can pose significant safety risks for those living at home. Luckily, this program addresses that need.

Generally speaking, veterans and military service members with a service-connected condition such as dementia can receive HISA funding for home modifications. HISA offers funds for medically necessary changes to a veteran’s primary residential structure.

The following are some examples of home modifications covered by HISA funds:

  • Entrance/exit accessibility, like ramps
  • Bathroom accessibility devices, like grab bars
  • Lowering of counters and sinks
  • Plumbing and electrical improvements for necessary medical equipment

The veteran can submit a VA Form 10-0103 to start the application process. A completed application packet will include the following:

  • A prescription with VA physician approval describing how structural alterations can help the veteran in daily life
  • An itemized cost list for the proposed modifications
  • A color photograph of the area needing modifications

Those who rent should also obtain a signed and notarized written document from the property owner that details permission to alter the property.

If the veteran is approved for HISA funding, they may receive up to $6,800 from this program during their lifetime. That money may be used for one or many approved projects, depending upon their cost.

VA memory care options: In-home care, clinics, and more

Once the veteran is enrolled, VA health care programs and services offer many options to assist senior veterans with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related care.

In-home options

  • Home-based primary care enables veterans to receive basic health care services at home and allows for coordination with other in-home care.
  • Homemaker and home health aide services bring non-medical care providers to the veteran’s home to help them complete their activities of daily living. This benefit can also be used in coordination with local in-home care providers, as long as they have a contract with the VA.
  • Remote monitoring care allows the veteran’s care team to track their health status through equipment that can be used in the veteran’s home.
  • Skilled home health care provides short-term assistance while a veteran transitions from a care facility back to their home, or offers long-term solutions for ongoing conditions requiring skilled nursing, occupation therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and more.

Out-of-home options

  • Adult day health care gives veterans access to several services in one location. These programs help relieve full-time caregivers while providing senior veterans with socialization, peer support, companionship, and recreation. Health care services may also be available at these adult day care facilities.
  • Outpatient clinics are places where a veteran can receive primary care and outpatient services for dementia-related issues. These may be located in local areas or on the campuses of VA medical centers.
  • Community careprovides health care to veterans at non-VA community providers when the VA is not able to provide needed care. This benefit must be specifically authorized by the VA before the veteran receives care at this type of provider.
  • Inpatient VA hospitals admit senior veterans if hospitalization ever becomes necessary. These are separate from VA Community Living Centers and State Veterans Homes, which offer a nursing home-style environment for seniors.

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Specialized options

  • Respite care can include adult day care, in-home care, and temporary stays at senior living communities or nursing homes. These services help relieve the veteran’s full-time caregiver to prevent caregiver burnout. Nursing home respite stays can occur through a nearby VA Community Living Center or through a nursing home in the community. However, there may be service limitations depending upon location.
  • Palliative care is a type of care which includes an interdisciplinary team of specialists that can holistically care for the veteran to ultimately improve their quality of life and comfort. Depending on the veteran’s unique needs and availability of services, this may be done in-home or through outpatient clinics.
  • Hospice care, or end-of-life care, is provided to veterans with less than six months to live. The goal is to give the veteran as much comfort as possible during their last days.
  • Veterans Transportation Program (VTP) assists veterans with roundtrip travel to VA health care facilities and other approved health care appointments for free or for a limited cost.

VA benefit coverage and out-of-pocket costs may vary by program or service. Therefore, you should contact the VA for specifics. In short, VA health care for memory care-related needs offers many options to support a veteran with dementia as well as their caregivers.

Memory care facilities for veterans

As dementia progresses, it may become time to consider memory care outside of the home. A unique bond exists between American veterans, and many feel at home with their brothers and sisters-in-arms because of shared life experiences. In such cases, a veteran may choose to look at veteran memory care facilities, including State Veterans Homes and VA Community Living Centers. Eligible veterans may also choose to live in a private sector community through the Community Nursing Home option.

State Veterans Homes

While many benefits and services for veterans come from the federal government, State Veterans Homes are managed by state governments. As a result, each state dictates different guidelines for eligibility and admission to their State Veterans Homes.

These memory care facilities for veterans typically provide a nursing-home style or dormitory-type residence. Some facilities even have an adult day program, so the veteran can socialize or receive care during the day and return home at night. These options help prevent caregiver burnout and promote a safe atmosphere for veterans with dementia.

Eligible veterans can participate in the State Home Per Diem Program, where the VA pays for the veterans care at State Veterans Homes on a per diem basis. Per diem rates are determined by a lengthy set of regulations and may vary based on individual situations.

Overall, State Veterans Homes offer veterans a sense of community and potentially a way to reduce memory care costs. The National Association of State Veterans Homes provides a helpful state veterans home directory organized by state.

VA Community Living Centers (CLCs)

VA Community Living Centers are essentially VA nursing homes. There are more than 100 CLCs in the country, each conveniently located on or near VA medical centers. Living areas in these communities can feel like home, as veterans may decorate their spaces, bring beloved pets, and invite family and friends to visit.

The social nature of a CLC helps prevent senior isolation. Also, CLCs offer residents assistance with ADLs along with medical care services. These services can be essential with lost mobility and the progression of dementia. Most importantly, some CLCs offer specialized care programs tailored specifically for veterans with dementia.

The veteran needs to be enrolled in VA health care to be considered for a CLC. Additionally, the veteran should be medically and psychiatrically stable to apply to a CLC. With these services in mind, it’s clear why CLCs remain a popular option for America’s senior veterans. Locate CLCs near you through the VA’s CLC location registry.

Community Nursing Homes

Veterans may prefer to live in senior living communities close to home and family. These Community Nursing Homes, which exist throughout the country, are private sector options for nursing home care. Unlike State Veterans Homes and CLCs, these communities are open to anyone. Some of these Community Nursing Homes may offer special care for veterans with dementia, though this depends heavily on location and availability.

Eligible veterans must meet specific guidelines for service-connected status, level of disability, and financial limits to qualify for Community Nursing Homes. Coverage of cost may vary. It’s important to understand that these communities may have waitlists, even if a veteran qualifies for the program.

Find veteran-friendly care

With veterans at higher risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, it’s important to understand the many VA resources, benefits, and care options available to them.

If you or a loved one is currently facing a dementia diagnosis, reach out to the free, local Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom to learn more about veteran-friendly memory care options in your area, including home care and senior living communities.

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Disclaimer

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

Author
Melissa Lee

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