Health Care Services
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Women Veteran Health Care Services (Department of Veterans Affairs)
Women veterans--active duty, Reserve, and Guard--with active duty service may be eligible for some or all Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) physical and mental health care services. Time in service, disabilities, income, and characterization of military discharge are some of the factors considered. It takes very little of your time to complete the VA Form 10-10EZ, Application for Health Benefits which is used to assess your eligibility. For more related information, reference the following VA handbook which is updated annually.
Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and SurvivorS, Chapter 1, Health Care Benefits
The VA officially opened it doors to women veterans in 1980 and began providing medical and psychosocial services for women in 1988 when women represented 4.4 percent of all veterans. In 1992, legislation was passed authorizing the VA to provide gender-specific care. In 2016, about 10% (over 2 million) of military veterans are women. Women are the fastest growing population of veterans using the VA, with the percentage of women veterans projected to double by 2040. Many women veterans who served prior to 1980 when the VA officially opened its doors to women veterans are not aware they may be eligible for VA health care services and many other VA benefits. Because they were not considered veterans when they departed the military, and they were not necessarily officially notified of their legally-sanctioned access to VA, it is important to ask them: "Did you serve in the military?" Oftentimes they do not self-identify as a military veteran.
For more information about eligibility and enrollment into the VA health care services program, your VA women veteran advocates, and the history of women veterans and the VA, see the WomenVetsUSA VA Health Care Program section. (Special Note: VA is not a health care insurance supplier. It is a health care services program provider.)
Who is Your Primary Health Care Services Contact and Advocate?
Every VA medical center nationwide is expected to have a Veterans Health Administration-designated Women Veterans Program Manager (WVPM) to advise and advocate for women veterans. The Woman Veterans Program Manager helps coordinate all health care services: primary, gender-specific including reproductive, specialized, and mental health care. See the attached chart at the end of this section depicting federal and state women veteran contacts.
Your Women Veterans Program Manager (WVPM)
Call Your Nearest VA Medical Center: Find the phone number on the VA locator directory web page. Click on a "state," select the "Medical Center" nearest to you, and the "Medical Center's" central phone number should be listed on the "Medical Center's" home page. Ask to be connected with your "Women Veterans Program Manager."
Visit the Online VA Directory/Locator: Go to the VA locator directory web page, click on a "state," select the "Medical Center" nearest to you, move over to the left-hand menu and click "Health Care Services," and then, "Women Veterans." Your "Women Veterans Program Manager" contact information may be listed on this page.
VA Handbooks for Women Veterans Program Managers (WVPMs)
VHA Handbook 1330.01: Health Care Services for Women Veterans, May 21, 2010 (Recertification Date: 5/31/2015)
VHA Handbook 1330.02: Women Veterans Program Manager, May 23, 2012 (Recertification Date: 5/31/2017)
VHA Handbook 1330.03: Maternity Care and Coordination, October 5, 2012 (Recertification Date: 10/31/2017)
VA Women Veterans Call Center
Call the VA Women Veterans Call Center: Call 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) during the Women Veterans Call Center hours. The Call Center associates will work your questions and make necessary referrals to include providing your Women Veterans Program Manager's contact information.
What Health Care Services are Offered?
By law, VA offers comprehensive health care services to all veterans. However, on-site services may vary from one location to the next for a number of reasons such as veteran demand and medical provider staffing.
See the "Veterans Choice Program: Accessing Care Closer to Home" posted under WomenVetsUSA "Health Care Services" to better understand other possible alternatives when the VA care you need is not available or accessible. For example, if a veteran needs an OB/GYN physician's care and the servicing VA does not have an OB/GYN physician on staff, the VA medical center can consider non-VA care. VA preapproved authorization is required for all non-VA care.
Comprehensive (Physical/Medical) Health Care
Comprehensive health care includes primary, specialty, and gender-specific services. While care is usually provided at a medical center or an outpatient community-based clinic, the VA also offers some telehealth services.
Reproductive Health Specialty Care
Reproductive health care includes maternity care, infertility evaluation and limited treatment; sexual problems, tubal ligation, urinary incontinence, and others. VA is prohibited by legislative authority from providing in vitro fertilization or abortion services.
MomMoodBooster Program (Postpartum Depression)
By law, "Veterans Health Care Act of 1992," Public Law 102-585, SEC. 106. HEALTH CARE SERVICES FOR WOMEN, the VA cannot offer in vitro fertilization (IVF) to wounded veteran or any other veteran families.
Fertility clinics around the nation offer discounted IVF treatment rates for veterans self-funding the procedure. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology provides a "Service to Veterans" list of participating clinics.
The Department of Defense does offer IVF to active duty wounded service member families.
By law, "Veterans Health Care Act of 1992," Public Law 102-585, SEC. 106. HEALTH CARE SERVICES FOR WOMEN, the VA cannot offer abortion services to women veterans.
The Department of Defense, since passing the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act which included the Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) amendment, does extend abortion insurance coverage to an active duty pregnant servicewoman whose life is endangered and/or is a victim of rape or incest. Active duty servicewomen no longer have to pay out of pocket for an abortion procedure for the first time since 1981.
Mental Health Care
Make the Connection Online Resources
Military Sexual Trauma: By law, all care for Military Sexual Assault/Trauma (MSA/MST) is provided at no cost to eligible veterans who experienced MSA/MST while serving on active duty, active duty for training, and inactive duty training status.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Vet Centers (Combat Readjustment, Military Sexual Trauma, Bereavement)
A "Telephone Care" professional is available by phone to answer questions and advise on health concerns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are currently enrolled as a VA patient, you can contact your VA Medical Center and ask for the "Telephone Care" number.
Call Your Nearest VA Medical Center: Find the phone number on the VA locator directory web page. Click on a "state," select the "Medical Center" nearest to you, and the "Telephone Care" phone number should be listed on the "Medical Center's" home page. If the number is not posted, ask to be connected with the 24/7 "Telephone Care" number."
Visit the Online VA Directory/Locator: Go to the VA locator directory web page, click on your "home state," then your closest home state "Medical Center." The "Telephone Care" number is usually posted on the "Medical Center" home page in the "righthand menu."
My HealtheVet is VA's online personal health record. It was designed for veterans, active duty servicemembers, their dependents, and caregivers. All users who have a Basic Account are able to view their self-entered information. If you are a VA patient, you can upgrade your account to Advanced or Premium which offers other features enabling users to communicate with their providers. For more information about account types and what you can view, visit My HealtheVet Account Types.
My HealtheVet Online Registration
There are also some special programs for women veterans experiencing homelessness, survivors of sexual assault, rape, and harassment, intimate partner violence, and women veterans interested in education and training, employment assistance, and vocational rehabilitation.
Facts: Women Veterans Using VA Services
Profile of Women Veterans: 2014
Profile: Women Veterans Using VA Services
Womens Veterans Health Care Facts & Statistics
National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics
Library History/Heritage Category
Outreach Materials: Connecting Women Veterans to VA Health Care
Need posters and brochures for outreach and networking? The VA provides an extensive library for public use at Women Veterans Health Care "Outreach Materials" and "Latest Information Brochures and Publications."
Accessing Care Closer to Home: Veterans' Choice Program (Department of Veterans Affairs)
The "Veterans' Choice Program" allows veterans who are already enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care program to receive health care within their community from a non-VA medical facility if time or distance are obstacles for them when health care is needed. Veterans must meet certain criteria to use this program. Using this program does NOT impact existing VA health care or any other VA benefit.
In general, eligible veterans are already enrolled in the VA health care program and:
- have or will be waiting more than 30 days for a medical care appointment, and/or
- live more than 40 miles away from a VA medical care facility, and/or
- face one of several excessive travel burdens.
Is the "Choice Program" Adversely Impacting Your Credit?
Since the launch of this Congressionally-mandated program, some non-VA health care providers may not have been paid in a timely manner for the services they rendered and consequently, billed the veteran. VA will help you resolve adverse credit reporting and debt collection issues caused by use of the "Choice Program."
For assistance, call 1-877-881-7618 and Press 1 between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
External Website: VA Veterans' Choice Program
Military Sexual Assault/Military Sexual Trauma
Many thousands of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) servicewomen and men are survivors of sexual assault and rape perpetrated by U.S. servicemembers and other nonmilitary individuals. These assaults and rapes occur on and off military installations and on and off duty. Female and male survivors--active duty, Reserves and Guard--served in all war and peacetime eras, combat and noncombat, stateside and overseas. In April 2012, after the January 2012 Sundance Film Festival premier of The Invisible War documentary, the Secretary of Defense publicly announced military sexual violence a cultural epidemic within the federal organization.
2014 Department of Defense Statistics:
- 20,000 servicemembers, 1 in 20 servicewomen and 1 in 100 servicemen, experienced at least one sexual assault in 2014.
- The rate of assault is higher for servicewomen than men, but more servicemen than women are assault victims understanding about 80% of the military population is male.
- 1 in 4 servicewomen and 1 in 14 servicemen experienced sexual harassment, sexual quid pro quo and/or gender discrimination.
What is Military Sexual Assault (MSA)?
Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 6495.01, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program (PDF), defines sexual assault as follows:
Intentional sexual contact characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. The term includes a broad category of sexual offenses consisting of the following specific UCMJ offenses: rape, sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact, forcible sodomy (forced oral or anal sex), or attempts to commit these acts. (DoDD 6495.01, January 23, 2012; Change 2,01/20/2015)
DOD does not include sexual harassment in its definition of MSA. Sexual harassment is addressed under the DOD Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) program.
The Department of Veterans Affiairs (VA) does include sexual harassment in their definition of Military Sexual Trauma (MST). See definition below.
What is Military Sexual Trauma (MST)?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses the term "military sexual trauma" (MST), coming from federal law Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D, to refer to psychological trauma, which in the judgement of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a 'physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty training. Sexual harassment is further defined as "repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character." This definition includes active duty, Reserve and Guard servicemembers.
When VA screens veterans for health care, the screener asks all veterans whether she or he experienced MST.
Fact Sheet: What is Military Sexual Trauma?
Who is Eligible for No-cost VA MSA/MST-related Care?
President Obama signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-146) ("Choice Act"). By law, VA provides all "counseling and care and services needed to overcome psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment" which occurred while the veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, and inactive duty training status.
- Cost for Care: Care for Military Sexual Assault/Trauma (MSA/MST)-related condidtions is provided at no cost to eligible veterans who experienced MSA/MST.
- Treatment Programs: A 2012 list of VA inpatient and residential treatment programs, women-only and mixed gender, are listed on page 10-11 of the 2012 VA OIG health care inspection report (Inpatient and Residential Programs for Female Veterans with Mental Health Conditions Related to Military Sexual Trauma). Because this is a 2012 list, its best to inquire about VA's programs at the time of a veteran's need to ensure it is current.
- Provider Gender Requests: In accordance with VA Directive 2010-033: "When clinically indicated, facilities are strongly encouraged to accommodate the requests of Veterans and eligible individuals for a provider of a particular sex for their care for conditions related to MST."
- Beneficiary Travel to Treatment Programs: VHA policy states that any veteran with MST needs to be able to access clinically appropriate care regardless of the location. When the VA refers a veteran for inpatient and/or residential treatment programs, they need to inquire about authorization of travel (Beneficiary Travel).
Department of Defense (DOD)
SAFE Telephone Helpline: 1-877-995-5247 (U.S. and DSN)
The 24/7 worldwide, secure and confidential sexual assault support telephone helpline is available for the Department of Defense community.
Search for your nearest DOD Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) at:
Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) ensure that victims of sexual assault within the Department of Defense (DOD) receive appropriate and responsive care. They serve as the single point of contact to coordinate sexual assault victim care. The term "Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC)" is used throughout DOD to facilitate communication and transparency regarding sexual assault response capability.
Transitioning Service Member Resource Search
The Safe Helpline offers an online resource search for services for separating and retiring servicemembers who are survivors of sexual assault and rape.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1)
The 24/7, 365 days a year toll-free confidential Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with VA responders. Online chat and texting a message to 838255 is also available as well as support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
VHA Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Coordinators
Contact the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Military Sexual Trauma Coordinators by calling the closest VA Medical Center and asking for their "Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator." Visit the online VA locator directory, click on a state, select the Medical Center nearest to you, and the Medical Center's central phone number should be listed on the Medical Center's home page.
VA Vet Center Counselors
All the VA Vet Centers offer MST assessment and referral for noncombat and combat veterans who experienced MST from all peace and wartime eras of service at not cost to veteran. Selected VA Vet Centers offer MST counseling.
Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Coordinators for Disability Compensation Claims
VBA Military Sexual Trauma Claims Coordinators
Disability Compensation for Conditions Related to Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Fact Sheet, Contacts and Required Forms (April 2015)
Civilian Sexual Assault Service Providers
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
Search for your nearest civilian sexual assault service provider at:
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
There are more than a 1,000 sexual assault service providers across the country that collaborate with Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and Safe Helpline to help victims of sexual assault in their communities. All RAINN affiliates operate 24/7 crisis telephone hotlines. These affiliate centers generally offer a wide range of services.
Military Sexual Assault (MSA)/Sexual Harassment
Department of Defense Websites/Reports
Sexual Assault & Prevention Response Office
Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity
Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Department of Veterans Affairs Websites/Reports
Fact Sheet: What is Military Sexual Trauma?
Fact Sheet: Military Sexual Trauma Care/Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014
Fact Sheet: Top 10 Things All Healthcare & Service Professionals Should Know About VA Services for Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma
Website: Military Sexual Trauma
VA OIG Report No. 12-03399-54: Healthcare Inspection/Inpatient and Residential Programs For Female Veterans with Mental Health Conditions Related to Military Sexual Trauma, December 5, 2012
Other MSA/MST Information
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
Servicewomen's Action Network (SWAN)
Organizations & Sites, Library, News, Media, Laws, Tracking Legislation and Historical Timelines
Prevention & Wellness Care
Take an active role in staying healthy! When you meet with your health care provider, discuss a personalized adult well-care visit, screenings and immunization schedule that will help you prevent disease and improve your health. Being your own best advocate ensures your preventive care schedule reflects your particular health and risk factors. Schedule time for periodic checkups that just might save your life.
The sites below, public and private, provide information on a broad range of women's health topics.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Women's Health
Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Women's Health
Department of Health and Human Services: Healthy People 2020
Department of Veterans Affairs: Women Veterans Health and Wellness
Department of Veterans Affairs: National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc.
Prevention Services for Women, Children and Adults: Affordable Health Care Act Coverage
U.S. National Library of Medicine: Women's Health
Many hospitals, universities and colleges have libraries, research centers and clinical services dedicated to women's health and disease prevention. Doing an online search by name of a hospital or school and women's health and disease prevention may provide close-to-home resources, services and centers of excellence focused on particular health issues.
National Health Observances (NHOs)
National Health Observances (NHOs) are special days, weeks, or months dedicated to raising awareness about important health topics.
Prosthetics & Sensory Aids & Rehabilitation
Women wounded in recent global war on terrorism military conflicts and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing raised the public's awareness about the need for research and development of female prosthetic devices which directly contribute to healthy rehabilitation and recovery. There are gender-specific needs requiring prostheses compatible with differing physical, biological, and social demands throughout a woman's lifetime.
A 2013 report written for the VA-supported research organization, Extremity, Trauma, and Amputation Center of Excellence, stated that 226 (2%) of the 12,581 battle-related casualties involving traumatic extremity injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2013 were women.
VA Rehabilitation & Prosthetics Services
Fact Sheets: VA Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services
There is a wide range of prosthetics and sensory aids veterans may need at some point in their life to better their long-term health and enhance their overall quality of life. Prosthetics and aids include artificial limbs/orthotics, breast forms, home improvement and alterations, automobile adaptive equipment, clothing allowance, durable medical equipment, eyeglasses, hearing aids, home oxygen, wheelchairs and more.
Additionally, advances within rehabilitation services for veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and other potentially debilitating health conditions are making life more manageable for many veterans.
For more detailed information on rehabilitation services and specific prosthetic and sensory aids, publications, videos, articles and news, and state contacts, visit the VA Rehabilitation and Prosthetics website and read their fact sheets.
Fact Sheets: VA Prosthetic and Sensory Aid Services for Women Veterans
Fact Sheets: VA Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services
Service & Guide Dogs
In 2012, the VA published guidance for hearing and mobility dogs. While VA does not purchase or provide dogs, they do support prescriptions, medical care, equipment to perform specialized tasks, and handler training with new guide/service dogs. VA is working to provide a "pet insurance" to cover the veterinary benefits to make it easier for veterans to access medical care for their dogs. Veterans who have obtained dogs must have approval from a VA medical care provider stating that the dog is an essential part of the treatment plan for the veteran in order to be eligible for the veterinary benefits.
Prosthetic and Sensory Aid Services (PSAS) Working Group
In 2008, the VA established the first-ever women veterans' Prosthetics Working Group. See "Briefings: PSAS for Women Veterans" below for more information.
VHA Directive 1173, Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS)
This directive documents VHA PSAS policy and lists all VHA handbooks implementing their policy.
Reports/Briefings: PSAS for Women Veterans
To learn about VA PSAS and the women veteran Prosthetics Working Group initiatives, see the reports and briefings, "Prosthetic and Sensory Aids for Women Veterans," posted in the WomenVetsUSA Library Prosthetics section.
News/Media: Women's Prosthetics
Recent initiatives are focusing on customizing women's prostheses including cosmesis. Why not accommodations for pregnancy and biological cycles? Painted toe nails? High heels? Sneakers? Blades?
Reshaping unisex, one-size-fits-all prostheses by shaving, carving, and other means of force-fitting oftentimes leads to discomfort, other significant health challenges, self-consciousness and/or discouragement from wearing them, therefore, adversely impacting quality of life. News about women prostheses is posted in the WomenVetsUSA News and WomenVetsUSA Media sections.
External Website: Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation & Prosthetic Services
Registries for Military Exposure to Harmful Substances and Hazards
Types of Military Exposures
Veterans, and in some cases their families, may be exposed to harmful substances and hazards that may cause health challenges during their lifetime. Military exposures are listed on the VA Public Health site.
VA Public Health Military Exposures List
Certain birth defects of veterans' biological children are recognized as associated with qualifying service in Korea and Vietnam. Some of these defects are related to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposure and some are not.
VA Public Health Birth Defects in Children of Vietnam and Korea Veterans
Benefits for Veterans' Children with Birth Defects
Application for Benefits for Certain Children with Disabilities Born of Vietnam and Certain Korea Service Veterans
Contact your nearest VA Environmental Health Coordinator to schedule a Registry health exam.
VA Environmental Health Coordinators Locator Directory
External Website: Department of Veterans Affairs Public Health
Veterans Aging with Dignity: Geriatric Health Care & Other Elder Care Services
As veterans age, they may experience multiple chronic conditions, life-limiting illness, frailty or disability associated with chronic disease, aging or injury. Health care professionals whose specialty is caring for older adults (geriatrics) can help veterans and their caregivers make appropriate decisions to improve their quality of life.
Many other life challenges--legal, financial, safety, and others--can also adversely impact health. Resolving some of the other issues may improve one's quality of life and ease a caregiver's responsibilities.
At end of life, veterans and their families may choose palliative and hospice care to assist them with ensuring their loved one dies with dignity and respect.
What Kind of Assistance Do You Need?
If possible, discuss your needs with others to include your family caregiver, medical provider, and your social worker or care coordinator. Because it can be difficult to identify available services that might improve the quality of your life, sharing the decision making with others you trust is important.
There are many helpful checklists and guides available to guide everyone through this process.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Veteran Shared Decision Making Worksheet
VA Caregiver Self-Assessment Worksheet
VA Guide to Long Term Services and Support
Affordable Senior Care Directory
Basic Knowledge 101: Caregiving, Elderly Care, Aging
National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership
Who Can Help You Find the Right Assistance?
Reach in to the many community, state, and federal agencies available to assist aging adults, their families, and caregivers.
VA Geriatrics and Extended Care
Department of Health and Human Services: Eldercare Locator
Medicare/Medicaid "PACE: Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly"
National Institutes of Health: Healthy Aging Directory & Library
Aging and Disability Resource Center
Aging Life Care Association: Consumer Resources
A Sibling's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents
Family Care Navigator: State-by-State Help for Family Caregivers
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Formalizing Your Health Care Wishes
Just having a written advance directive, for instance a living will and/or durable power of attorney, will not in and of itself ensure your wishes will be fulfilled. To ensure your end-of-life health care wishes are understood and respected involves much personal reflection and continued communication between you and those you choose to make decisions on your behalf before a crisis occurs.
Health Care Advance Planning Toolkit (What to Consider)
Health Decision Resources (Forms, Links, and More)
My Health Care Wishes: An Advance Directive Manager App
Be Alert for Elder Abuse, Exploitation, and Fraud
What Is It?
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
- Abuse: Abuse may be emotional, physical, and/or sexual as well as neglect.
- Exploitation: Exploitation includes illegal or improper use of an elder's funds, property, or assets.
- Fraud: Fraud includes identity theft and internet, check, credit card, and prescription fraud crimes.
Who Can Help You?
There are many agencies available to help you when you suspect or know that elder abuse, fraud,
loand/or exploitation have occurred.
Financial Crimes Against the Elderly
How to Prevent Credit Card Fraud
National Center on Elder Abuse
End of Life Care
Ensuring a veteran is as comfortable as possible at the end of life can be offered through palliative and hospice care. Both are "comfort care" in which patients receive medications, day-to-day care, equipment, bereavement counseling, and symptom treatment are administered through a single program. Where palliative care programs and hospice care programs differ greatly is in the care location, timing, payment, and eligibility for services.
Although palliative care can be given at home, it is most often given in an institution such as a hospital, extended care facility, or nursing home that is associated with a palliative care team.
Hospice care is referred by a veteran's physician when a patient generally has less than six months to live. Usually, a hospice care program is administered in the home by a team of hospice professionals. Family often assist as they can. Hospice can provide round-the-clock care in a nursing home, a specially equipped hospice facility, or a hospital, but this not the norm.
Veteran Care Outside of Home: VA-Certified State & Community-Contracted Veterans' Homes
Planning Care in a "Home" Away from Your Home
Millions of veterans each year need nursing home and/or residential care sometime during their lives. A stay at a home may be short- or long-term. Veterans of all ages, with and without combat duty time, may experience aging, end-of-life, disability, or rehabilitation challenges requiring on-site medical and/or non-medical assistance at a licensed facility.
There are a variety of community, state, and federal alternatives to consider, some of which are dedicated to serving only veterans. Some Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)-certified and/or -contracted homes offer financial and other incentives to veterans.
What Types of Homes May Be Available?
Veterans Administration (VA)-certified and/or VA-contracted Homes. The VA can formally recognize and certify a facility as a:
- State Veterans Home,
- Community Nursing Home,
- Medical Foster Home,
- Community Residential Home, or a
- VA Community Living Center (VA Nursing Home).
Your nearest VA Medical Center Geriatrics and Extended Care office usually maintains a list of these homes. Other organizations may also assist you with a home search.
State Veterans, Community Nursing, Medical Foster, and Community Residential Homes are not VA facilities--they are not managed by VA. However, the VA does inspect and certify them to ensure they continue to meet VA standards. "State Veterans Homes" may apply for VA construction grants for facility improvements.
VA Community Living Centers are VA facilities, usually located on a VA campus and managed by the VA.
What Are Some Types of Care Homes May Offer?
- Long-term care includes services offered by a licensed facility that provides general nursing care to those who are chronically ill or unable to take care of daily living needs.
- Short-term care includes services offered by a licensed facility that provides rehabilitation/specialized care to those who are, for instance, discharged from a hospital and in need of recovering from surgery, illness or an accident.
- Residential care includes services offered by a licensed facility that provides supervised care, meals, activities, and health management.
- Respite care is temporary care for a veteran intended to provide time off for their caregiver who attends to their needs on a regular basis. Respite care is typically 14 to 21 days of care per year.
This is not an all-inclusive list. The industry continues to evolve with facilities offering a variety of services.
Shop for a Home: Make Firsthand Comparisons
Go shopping and make firsthand comparisons. Expect the best possible match for yourself through a shared decision process. You, with your caregiver and a home admissions coordinator, will determine what care you need and can financially afford, available home services, and your eligibility based on a home's admission criteria. Whenever possible, it is assuredly less stressful for you and your caregiver when you are not in the midst of a crisis and you're able to be your own spokesperson, communicate your preferences, and plan ahead. There are checklists to guide you through this process.
What Should You Consider?
Your Veteran Status. You must provide your official military discharge form to the home admissions coordinator. Each home and other agencies providing services and financial support publish their unique definition of “veteran.” Some may give admission priority to wartime veterans or to service-connected disabled veterans. Others may specify a “veteran” as someone with only one day of active duty military service for other than training, which opens doors for those who served active, Reserves, and Guard duty. Most require an honorable discharge from military service. Veterans in Veterans Administration (VA)-certified homes may qualify for financial stipends. Additionally, some homes may also consider admissions for veteran spouses. It’s always best to contact the home of interest and talk directly with them about their admission criteria.
Desired Location. If possible, always visit a facility in advance of your final decision. If finances are a concern, you want to know if the home is VA certified or not. Can the facility that interests you meet you and your family’s location proximity preferences and emotional needs while accommodating your residential and/or health care requirements? If not, does the facility offer visitation transportation or electronic family connections through Skype or other computer applications? Your nearest VA Medical Center Geriatrics and Extended Care office can assist you in identifying facilities. Your local area agency on aging and the National Association of State Veteran Homes are also dependable resources.
Capacity for Required Care. Your needs will be assessed as a part of the admissions process to ensure your home of choice can offer what you need and want. Again, expect the best possible match through a shared decision making process. If not satisfied, shop around if you can.
Room Availability. Facilities range in size, number of private and semi-private rooms, and none share a common structural design. Some states have more VA-certified home alternatives than others. Always visit homes as far in advance as possible before making your final decision. By federal law, facilities that participate in the VA construction grant program must serve at least 75% veterans and may serve, if space is available, up to 25% veteran spouses, widows, widowers, and Gold Star parents. Homes with more private rooms usually have more admission flexibility and you are more likely to be admitted at or closer to the time of your need.
Coordination of Care. It’s important to understand a home’s protocol for managing your in-home care, transferring you to other care facilities, and accessing outside mobile health teams and telehealth. If you want to be able to access outside care while at a home of choice, for instance VA services, its best to verify the availability and deliverability of these services from your local VA.
Length of Stay. Veterans may need short- and/or long-term care. Short-term care might mean living at the home 24/7 or attending adult daycare programs. Long-term stays can occur more than once and are not necessarily end-of-life care focused. Homes are diversifying their services to include out-patient physical, occupational, and speech rehabilitation services.
Culture Compatibility. You and your caregiver need to carefully identify what is most important to you: person- or staff-directed care, transparency and enforcement of resident rights, an all-veteran setting, ratio of male to female residents and residents to staff, institutional or social concepts and design, VA certification, food preparation, indoor and outdoor activities, volunteers associated with facility, ease of mobility on property, visiting hours, alternative communication opportunities with family and friends (Skype, e-mail, phone), resident safety and security measures, inspection results, and any other priorities you or others identify.
Financial Obligations & Assistance. For most veterans, care is not free and again, costs vary depending on a host of factors, including a veteran's particular circumstances. The home's Admission Coordinator or other staff helps you complete a financial assessment.
Per Diem Payment: Veterans in "VA-certified State Veterans Homes"
Any veteran receiving care in a "VA-certified State Home" may be eligible for a VA stipend, also referred to as "per diem payment." These payments offset some of the total care costs and vary with the type of care (nursing home/domiciliary/adult day health care) received. VA per diem payment rates change annually by law.
VA Provider Agreement: 70-100% Service-Connected Disabled Veterans Needing Nursing Home Care in a "VA-certified State Veterans Home and/or VA-contracted Home"
A VA/home provider agreement is completed to determine the cost of care. Depending on current law, policy, and rules, it's possible veterans will incur no cost share and their VA disability compensation will not be assessed as a monetary contribution to care.
VA Aid & Attendance Pension: Non-Service Connected Disabled Pension-eligible Veterans, Their Spouses and/or Children in a "Nursing Home or Housebound"
Veterans who meet the following criteria are generally eligible for tax-free VA Aid & Attendance Pension monthly benefits:
- Age 65 or older. If younger than 65, a veteran must be permanently and totally disabled.
- Served during recognized wartime for at least one day.
- Served at least 90 days on active duty. For veterans serving after September 7, 1980, 24 months of active duty service or the full period of service must be completed.
- Income level must be below limits established by Congress.
- Less than the legally-determined amount of assets, which include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and annuities. Homes, vehicles, and personal property are not counted as assets.
- Need assistance with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, and eating.
- Complete a medical evaluation from a physician must be completed unless care is provided in a nursing home.
Survivors, an un-remarried spouse and/or unmarried child/children, of a veteran may also be eligible for a tax-free VA Survivor Aid & Attendance (Death) Pension if they meet VA criteria. VA Survivor Aid & Attendance (Death) Pension rates change annually by law.
Remember, eligibility is determined based on your particular life circumstances to include income, assets, health care insurances and programs, and needs. Once you receive a home's financial assessment, consider asking your VA Regional Benefits Office Women Veterans Coordinator (WVC), a VA-accredited Veteran Service Officer (VSO), attorney or claims agent to help you determine what VA services and benefits you and/or your family may be eligible for in addition to completing the VA Form 21-527EZ and/or the VA Form 21-534E pension forms if appropriate. The VA Regional Benefits Office Women Veterans Coordinator and VSO services are free. Attorneys and claims agents may charge fees that are capped by law.
National Association of State Veterans Homes
VA Geriatrics and Extended Care
VA Guide to Long-term Services and Supports
Veteran Shared Decision Making Worksheet
Medicare Long-term Care Overview
Medicaid Long-term Care Overview
Department of Health and Human Services Long-term Care Overview
National Institute on Aging: Nursing Homes--Making the Right Choice
National Institutes of Health Long-term Care Overview
Senior Veterans Service Alliance
VA Aid & Attendance and Housebound
VA Aid & Attendance and Housebound Benefits
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Be Your Own Best Advocate
Women are still expected to live longer with some outliving their children, on average earn significantly less lifetime wages and build less lucrative retirement plans if any, and not infrequently experience housing, health, and food insecurities at some point in their lives.
Give yourself some peace of mind by understanding your veteran benefits. Plan ahead, sooner than later, for caretaking and caregiving in a "home" away from home.
Family Member (Spouse, Child or Parent) and Survivor Services
Veteran family members--spouse, child or parent--may find assistance through federal and state government programs as well as community-based initiatives. There are federal, state, and community resources to contact and inquire about what services are currently available. The very few listed here will get a veteran family member started with their search for assistance.
VA Benefits for Veterans' Spouses, Dependents, and Survivors provides links to compensation, education and training, employment services, health care, home loans and housing-related assistance, life insurance, pension and memorial benefits.
Fact Sheet: Spouses, Dependents, & Survivors
Under certain circumstances, veteran family members may be eligible for VA health care benefits. Some of these services might include:
- Bereavement Counseling
- CHAMPVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program)
- Children Born with Spina Bifida (Vietnam / Korea Veterans)
- Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWW)
- Coaching into Care
- Mental Health
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Readjustment Counseling
- VA Canteen Service
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monetary benefit generally payable to a surviving spouse, child, or parent of servicemembers who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training or survivors of veterans who died from their service-connected disabilities.
DIC for parents is an income-based benefit.
Veterans Affairs Office Directory
National Military Family Association
Easter Seals Military and Veteran Community Services & Support
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (T.A.P.S.)
If interested in related legislation, visit the WomenVetsUSA "Laws" and "Tracking Legislation" pages.
In the past decade, the challenges caregivers assisting disabled veterans face gained much-needed attention in Congress. Laws were passed to support caregivers who offer disabled veterans care, oftentimes in a home rather than a health care institution. There are federal, state and community resources to contact and inquire about what services are currently available. The very few listed here will get a veteran caregiver started with their search for assistance.
Who Is a Caregiver?
A caregiver is:
- A spouse, significant other, adult child, parent, family member and/or a friend.
- Someone who provides personal care services for a veteran.
- Services might include assistance with daily living activities like personal hygiene or providing supervision to ensure a veteran's safety.
Caregiver Services Contacts
Caregiver Support Line: 1-855-260-3274
Directory of Caregiver Services Contacts
VA also has a number of services designed specifically to support family caregivers. Services include a support line and coordinators to assist with identifying VA programs that may help with veteran care and caregiver support. Some of these programs include:
- VA Caregiver Support Program
- Caregiver Resources
- CHAMPVA Caregiver Resources
- Dementia Caregivers
- Family Caregivers of Post 9/11 Veterans
- Fisher Houses
- HIV Caregivers
- Homemaker & Home Health Aides
- Hospice and Palliative Care
- Long Term Care
- Multiple Sclerosis/ALS Caregivers
- Polytrauma / Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Caregiver Support
- Respite Care
- Stroke Caregivers
Other resource information: http://www.caregiver.va.gov/resources_landing.asp
Post 9/11 (Iraq & Afghanistan) Veteran Caregivers
Laws were passed offering specific services to caregivers of post 9/11 (Iraq and Afghanistan) veterans. Veterans need to be enrolled in VA health care to be considered for this program.
Fact Sheet: Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
Application for Caregiver Assistance: VA Form 10-10CG
Easter Seals: Military and Veterans Caregiver Training Services
National Military Family Association
National Respite Network and Resource Center
National Center on Caregiving: Family Caregiver Alliance
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (T.A.P.S.) (also for caregivers)
Wounded Warrior Program Post 9/11 Veteran Family & Caregiver Support
If interested in more caregiver-related legislation, visit WomenVetsUSA "Veterans Aging with Dignity" in the "Health Care Services" section, Laws and Tracking Legislation pages.
External Website: VA