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VA Health Care Benefits Package

If They Don't Have It, They'll Get It

Senior Alert

The hospital-based nursing homes of the VA system are very expensive to operate. So is paying for over 7,000 veterans' nursing home stays in the community. The law allows the VA to pay for community nursing home care for up to six months for conditions that are not connected to military service. However, the six months are not a given. In fact, many report that only 30 days of care are provided. The major purpose of nursing home care is to provide a transition from the hospital to the community. The length of stay, however, may be longer for those with service-connected conditions. Bottom line: Don't expect the VA to pick up Dad's nursing home care indefinitely.

The VA system will contract out their long-term care services to other agencies, if they are not able to directly deliver the service to your dad. So, if your dad needs nursing home care, home health care, adult day health care, or domiciliary care, or your mom needs respite care and the VA can't provide it directly, it will pay for the services provided by another organization to your dad or mom. For example, in 1997 the VA contracted with 3,700 nursing homes in the community to care for over 6,000 veterans. So, just because there isn't a VA medical center in your community doesn't mean that the VA can't help your parents. Of course, your parents will need to meet the VA's eligibility criteria.

State Veterans Homes

These “old soldiers' and sailors' homes” as they are known in many communities, are actually a partnership between the VA and the states. The state operates the homes; however, the federal VA system approves them, pays for up to 65 percent of the construction costs to build them, and subsidizes a portion of the daily cost of care. There are nearly 90 state-run veterans' nursing homes in 39 states. You must go through your state to gain admission into these homes. Most state homes require eligible veterans to share the cost of their care. It's best to call the home directly to find out its eligibility rules.

Alzheimer's/Dementia Program

The VA system offers three types of inpatient dementia units: The first provides a comprehensive diagnostic unit; the second is a behavioral unit that offers up to 90 days of treatment for behavioral as well as physical problems; and the third is a long-term care unit that provides comfort and care for vets in their final stages of the disease. Outpatient clinics are also provided by the VA for diagnostic workups and treatment. About one third of VA health care facilities offer dementia programs.

Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Centers (GRECCs)

Silver Lining

Your dad may be eligible to purchase VA life insurance. These policies are for a maximum face amount of $10,000. Under certain conditions the premium may be waived due to total disability. Veterans whose policies participate in dividends can increase their coverage beyond the limit by using the dividends to buy additional coverage. Call 1-800-669-8477 to speak to a VA insurance specialist or visit www.insurance.va.gov.

These centers integrate research, education, and clinical practices in geriatrics and gerontology. What researchers and medical practitioners learn at these centers they impart to the whole VA system. As of 1999, there were 20 such centers nationwide, with federal funding to support five more. If your parent is fortunate enough to live near one, it can provide Dad with excellent, comprehensive care. To find out a GRECC located near you, visit their Web site at slcgrecc.med.utah.edu/ greccweb, or go to the senior health services section of the VA Web site at www.va.gov.

Cancer Care

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Cancer Institute have developed a partnership that offers veterans wide access to clinical trials (research studies) on cancer. These trials take place at VA medical centers and outpatient clinics throughout the country. You can call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER or visit the VA Web site at www.va.gov/cancer.htm to find out if and where a clinical trial is available for your dad. Of course, cancer trials are available outside of the VA system, as well. Clinical trials offer free medical services for patients who have a condition that researchers want to study. Usually they are testing the benefits, side effects, and problems with certain drugs or medical practices. The benefit is that your parent receives free care; the downside is that it is experimental and there can be negative side effects.



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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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