(150) Feeling the Love: Another Trip to the VA

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

Our schedule promised an easy day with a quick trip to the VA Clinic for my Veteran to see his new dentist. It ended up being a full day, meeting loads of interesting people with urgent needs. While my husband visited with his doctors, I sat in waiting rooms where I spent hours talking, laughing, and sharing information with Veterans. Pummeled with questions about VA benefits for family caregivers and questions about service dogs, I felt useful and privileged to be in the company of so many heroes.

Since many of the questions asked today are important to Veterans, I thought it might be helpful to repeat them and offer links for more information. Some of the questions asked today have been addressed in previous Molly Blogs so I’ll link back to those earlier responses when relevant. This blog will cover questions about benefits for spouses and dependents. On Tuesday, I’ll share the questions about service dogs.

  1. Is my spouse eligible for medical coverage? The VA covers spouses and underage dependents of a Veteran, who is totally and permanently disabled with a service-connected disability (click here for all eligibility information).The coverage is referred to as ChampVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs); the premium-free coverage generally offers 80 percent coverage with a catastrophic cap of $3,000 over which the VA pays 100 percent. Medication is completely covered when using the Meds by Mail program or is reimbursed if using your local pharmacist. If you have other health insurance, ChampVA covers your co-pays in most cases. ChampVA qualifies as insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Complete information is available at http://www.va.gov/purchasedcare/programs/dependents/champva. This link includes access to the ChampVA Guide and Fact Sheet. The program is fairly easy to use with an excellent customer service center available at (800) 733-8387. (Please note that ChampVA is not ChampUS or TriCare.)
  2. Is my spouse eligible for dental care? ChampVA does not offer dental services. If your spouse and/or dependents are ChampVA eligible, however, they may subscribe to dental coverage through Delta Dental. Under this program, you may choose from several plans with monthly premiums required. The coverage is affordable and very competitive.
  3. Can my spouse receive financial support for caring for me, as she gave up her job to care for me full-time? In some cases, the VA provides stipends and other services for the family caregiver of a disabled Veteran. To inquire if you are eligible, contact the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274. (See Molly Blog 146 for other caregiver support programs.)
  4. Taking care of me is tough. Is counseling available for my wife, who takes care of me? Mental health counseling is available for your spouse or family caregiver. ChampVA offers an excellent mental health program, which can be found in the ChampVA Guide. The Caregiver Support program offers a help line where a mental health professional is available to talk with you at 1 (855) 260-3274. Also, in Molly Blog 69, The Warrior Connection (TWC) project was mentioned. TWC offers special retreats for Veterans and a retreat for spouses. The latter program focuses on the mental well-being of spouses. Don’t forget that the VA also provides respite days for family caregivers (see Molly Blog 146).

During our last couple of visits to VA facilities, I spoke with many Veterans, who gave accolades to their spouses. I heard from several, “Without my spouse, I wouldn’t be alive today.” Even though your Veteran may not tell you, chances are they are grateful for what you do for them. Just as the Molly Blog team is grateful for our Veterans and their sacrifices, we are grateful for family caregivers of US Veterans. Thank you for your sacrifices and for extending the lives of our national heroes.

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About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.