VA Caregiver Program

The VA Caregiver Program: What Veterans and Caregivers Need to Know

Life in the armed forces comes with many duties and sacrifices, from intensive military training, relocation, long deployments, to the very real threat of facing physical and mental harm. Supporting veterans who have been seriously injured in the line of duty is essential to make the veteran’s life easier and to honor their service.

What is the VA Caregiver Program?

The Caregiver Program, or the Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, was first established in 2011 to provide benefits to caregivers of post-9/11 disabled veterans. A caregiver refers to someone who leaves their job in order to care for the veteran full-time due to the nature of the veteran’s disability. Usually, this person is a spouse or family member. The program provides the caregiver with monthly compensation, travel expenses, medical training, healthcare benefits, and respite.

These caregivers play a critical role in the health and well-being of veterans. They assist with the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) for the veteran and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). The ADLs and IADLs that a veteran needs assistance with will depend on their injury or disability. These can include everyday tasks like bathing, dressing, eating, preparing food, or overall supporting the veteran’s day-to-day life.

Some common disabilities that can require full-time care include: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), amputation or loss of limbs, paralysis, blindness or vision impairment, deafness, or impaired hearing.


The MISSION Act stands for Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act. The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs launched this Act in June 2019, which effectively ended the previous Veterans Choice Program and established a new Veterans Community Care Program.

MISSION sought to strengthen the nationwide VA healthcare system and empower veterans with expanded healthcare options. It sought to strengthen the VA’s ability to recruit and retain clinicians and empower veterans with increased community care, such as new urgent care benefits and expanded telehealth care. If you would like to view an expanded list of the new healthcare options under the MISSION Act, click here to read more.

Veteran & Caregiver Eligibility

In order to qualify for the program, there are requirement both veterans and their caregivers must meet.

The caregiver assisting the veteran must be at least 18 years old and be a spouse, child, parent, stepchild, stepparent, or extended family member of the veteran, and live with the veteran full-time or be willing to be designated as the family caregiver.

For a veteran to be eligible, he or she must be a veteran, or member of the armed forces, undergoing a medical discharge, have service-connected disabilities caused or aggravated by active duty service, and need at least 6 months of continuous, in-person personal care services. The expansion of the MISSION Act has allowed veterans seriously injured in the line of duty on or after May 7, 1975, to qualify for the program. Previously, only caregivers of veterans injured post-9/11 were eligible for the program.

When applying for the VA Caregiver program, the VA might schedule the veteran for an exam to determine if the veteran is eligible for the program and how much assistance they may need.  It is important to follow through with attending this exam, as VA may deny veterans if they do not attend the exam or do not follow through with scheduling it. The veteran and their caregiver should also be prepared for a home visit, in which a clinician will evaluate the veteran’s need for a caregiver.

The Appeals Process

Despite the goal of expanded care under the MISSION Act, thousands of veterans and caregivers received denied applications and unexpected discharges beginning in 2018. Unfortunately, the inconsistent application of standards and rules across the country resulted in arbitrary, wrongful reductions and terminations of benefits.

For a decade, veterans and caregivers were denied the right to appeal decisions related to the VA’s Caregiver Program. However, in April 2021, after a successful class action, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled that veterans and caregivers seeking benefits under the Caregiver Program must be allowed to appeal decisions.

Thanks to the Beaudette v. McDonough lawsuit, all veterans and family caregivers who applied for benefits under the Caregiver Program are now allowed to appeal any benefits decision. The VA started sending notices to impacted veterans in late November 2021, informing them of their right to appeal.

In addition, up until the Beaudette Class Action lawsuit, the only appeals process available to the caregiver and their veteran was only within the hospital where the veteran received their care and the Regional Offices (VISN Office). Now, because of the Beaudette case, the veteran and their caregiver can appeal to the Veterans Court of Appeals.

It is important for veterans and caregivers to stay vigilant and current on the appeals process, so veterans and caregivers can receive the benefits they need and deserve.

Where is the Caregiver Program at Today?

As of June 2022, The Department of Veterans Affairs has suspended all ongoing eligibility reassessments of veterans enrolled in its family caregiver program while it reviews the program’s qualification requirements. This comes after a March decision to suspend dismissals from the program after a VA review found that a vast majority of post-9/11 veteran families participating in the program would be removed following a 2018 change to eligibility.

The Epic Artwork Story

Epic Artwork & Photo all started in 2005 when Andrew Bourne was deployed to Iraq at the Syrian border. He needed a camera for intelligence reasons, so his wife Karen sent him a digital camera. He also photographed the life of the Iraqi people around him. After he returned to the states in 2006 and Karen had a chance to finally view all the images that he took, she realized that Andrew had captured beautiful and harrowing images that later earned him a gallery show.

While in Iraq, Andrew suffered a traumatic brain injury. When he was finally diagnosed in 2008, he was told he needed a hobby to help rework the neurons in his brain, so when he brought up doing live event photography to Karen, she encouraged him to do so. Not only was live event photography a tangible exercise in therapeutic mindfulness, but it also engaged the brain and encouraged the development of neuroplasticity.

Andrew and Karen Bourne are a traveling photography duo with incredible experience and passion. Check out Epic Artwork and Photo’s portfolio here to explore their live event photography and the images Andrew captured in Iraq.

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