Veterans, home health care and technology

Mountain Empire Legal firm logoThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has become an unlikely and innovative pioneer in the quest to provide cost-effective, quality home health care for veterans. Although the agency has long been mired in controversies surrounding its programs, particularly arbitrary caregiver dismissals, the home health services sector of the VA has long been touted as an overall success story. As Thomas Edes, director of comprehensive geriatrics and palliative care programs for the VA puts it “We’re working in this environment of challenging budget constraints, and at the same time, we’re a very mission-driven organization. Put those together and what happens? That really pushes us to innovate.”

This innovation has seen home-based primary care for veterans quadruple since 2000, and all VA medical centers throughout the US now have a palliative care program as well. The VA Medical Foster Home program care has expanded from a pilot to a national program, recognized in at least 45 states and providing veterans housing as well as in-home care. These success stories are great news for veterans and a must for the Veterans Administration in part because the median age of a veteran is now 64 and the US aging veteran population is growing even faster than the senior civilian population.

It is not just the “new-comer” seniors straining the VA health care system. Nationwide the 85 plus population is on track to increase 70% from 2000 to 2020 according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The overall unsustainability of the US health care system has forced the hand of the VA, and there is no more cost-effective way than through subsidized, at home family and community-centered health care and technology to meet veterans’ care needs.

The Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that Telehealth is revolutionizing veteran care and providing high-quality treatment for them. The VA Video on Demand is delivering convenient, accessible health care particularly to those 24 plus percent of veterans who live in rural and remote access locations. Telehealth is also important for those veterans who are disabled. Although a veteran might live in a city they might be unable to get themselves to a medical center for an appointment.

Assisted living technologies for veterans include assistive mobility equipment – an ever-expanding category including wheelchairs, all-terrain vehicles, exoskeletons and in-home ceiling track mobility systems. Each of these continue to be refined and specialized to meet the individual veteran’s needs. The Veterans Administration awards grants to develop technology to assist veterans and service members in modifying their homes. Adapted computer access and electronic aids to daily living and environment control units (personal assistants) provide customized interactive abilities for veterans.

Electronic cognitive devices help veterans who struggle with activities of daily living (ADL). These devices include personal digital assistants (PDAs), smartphones, pocket personal computers (pocket PCs) and other handheld devices, global positioning systems (GPS), reminder watches, pagers with reminder features, and digital voice recorders. The use of these devices helps a veteran stay on schedule with medications as well as stay connected with family, friends, and their medical monitoring community. Those veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are further helped with their ADLs when robots with artificial intelligence (AI) are introduced into their environment. These AI “tech bots” are capable of reading human facial expressions and can identify when a veteran is feeling particularly stressed, isolated, angry, or depressed. The robot can upload the information to the veteran’s caregivers thus alerting them to the need for human intervention. Wearable sensors can also alert a caregiver or medical professional when vital signs are outside of a normal, healthy range.

The VA will provide a payment to disabled veterans toward the purchase of a car or other transportation and additionally will pay for adaptive equipment, repair, reinstallation or replacement of necessary equipment due to disability. If a veteran has lost the use of at least one foot, hand, or has a permanent impairment to their vision or severe burn injuries or immobile joints that their limit mobility, the VA will help to fund the adaptation of the vehicle to make it fully operational to the veteran.

While the latest technology brings benefits to all seniors opting to age in place, the veteran community is especially helped. Many veterans would like the luxury of aging without combat or noncombat injury so inherent to military service. Some of the aging in place obstacles they must overcome are extreme, commensurate with the injuries (psychological and physical) they have endured. Navigating the benefits that are available to a senior veteran is complicated if you are not well versed in the process. Getting enrolled in the correct program and receiving benefits can also be a lengthy process, so it is best to seek help before wasting valuable time.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Financial Benefits for Veterans and their Survivors


If you are a veteran, or if you are caring for one, it is essential to understand the many veterans’ benefits programs available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Often, financial support is available to a veterans spouse or their survivors as well as the veteran themselves. Even if there has never been a claim made for veteran benefits before based on a veteran’s current age, physical condition, or low income they may now qualify for financial help.

Even if you or the veteran you are caring for qualify for Medicare there can be advantages to choosing VA care for healthcare coverage. For example, Medicare does not cover physical exams and other preventative care, dental care, long-term in-home care or long-term nursing home residential care. The costs of VA co-pays and deductibles are generally lower than Medicare, and that includes prescription drugs. Some veterans can qualify for both Medicare and VA health coverage which can in some circumstances be extended to family members as well.

Many financial benefits available through the VA are offered through “service-connected disabilities.” These disabilities can include physical, mental, or emotional conditions which limit or preclude a veteran from performing various everyday activities deemed normal. A veteran does not have to have become disabled while in the military to qualify for these benefits. Service-connected disabilities can begin during military service and only start to show as the veteran ages. The vital point to understand is the disabling condition was caused during or aggravated by the veteran’s military service.

The condition that becomes disabling later in life can make a veteran eligible for a monthly disability compensation payment. When the VA reviews an applicant’s request for compensation, it will assign a rating to the disabling condition beginning at 10 percent or more. The rating is in 10 percent increments. The lowest rating at 10 percent in 2018 pays $117 per month while the highest rating at 100 percent pays $2,527 a month. Veterans who are housebound or require “aid and attendance” (regular in-home care) can receive an even higher monthly amount. Older veterans with a 30 percent or higher rating can have their spouse qualify for additional monthly benefits as well.

The VA can also help veterans with service-connected disabilities by supplying loans or grants to modify a home, whether it is the veteran’s home or the home of a family member where the veteran lives, through the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants program. Special car modifications are available through a similar program. The VA also offers several types of loans and loan guarantees to aid veterans in the purchase of or refinancing of a home, townhome, or condominium.

If a veteran (65 or older) has a low income, has had 90 or more active days of military service, and at least one of those days during a period of war (World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War) they qualify for a VA pension even if the veteran was not in combat. If a wartime veteran or a surviving spouse requires care on a regular basis, the amount paid can be over $2,000 per month in tax-free income. However, there are specific financial and medical requirements for this benefit. The rules for qualifying for a VA pension benefit are changing on October 18, 2018, so if you or someone you know is a wartime Veteran or the surviving spouse of a wartime Veteran, contact us right away to see if you could qualify for this important benefit before the qualification rules tighten.

Applying for, or assisting a veteran in the application process for VA benefits can help them improve their quality of life or benefit their survivors. While there are toll-free numbers and websites to inform claimants, the procedures are complicated and can be confusing. We would be happy to talk to you about your situation and help you understand your options. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

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