The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (Public Law:111-163) enacted legislation to ensure training, services, and assistance for Veteran's caregivers in need through two landmark programs, the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers and the Program of General Caregiver Support Services enhances support and services for family caregivers, including training and education. With these programs, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 exceeded past caregiver support policies that were limited to modest tax credits in a few states,1 and now provides informal caregivers an unprecedented level of support. The Comprehensive Program provides a program of support for both the Veteran and the Family Caregiver and a series of benefits for the Family Caregiver such as a monthly stipend, access to health care if not already covered under a health insurance plan, education and training, travel, lodging and subsistence, respite care and caregiver mental health services.
It aims to reduce strain for caregivers by providing financial stipends to those who care for severely injured OEF/OIF/OND Veterans who need assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) or supervision or protection because of the residual effects of their injuries. The General Program offers training to support to caregivers of Veterans of all eras, providing referrals to more services, on-site and phone counseling, and crisis-response. While The VHA responded to and met the requirements of the legislation extremely rapidly, The Comprehensive Program has far surpassed expectations, with 26,000 applicants and outlays of more than $300 million. As a result, the program's return on investment is of immediate interest to the Caregiver Support Program and Congress. Specifically, it is not yet known how the assistance provided by these programs, including caregiver training, stipends, or other services has affected caregivers' financial or emotional strain. It is also unknown how the program has affected Veterans' health and economic outcomes. Our center, The VA-CARES Evaluation Center will evaluate the impacts of The Comprehensive Program and The General Program on Veterans and caregivers. This evaluation will use a multiple and mixed methods approach and rich data sources to provide a full evaluation of VA CSP short-term impacts. We will use VA medical records data to describe how The Comprehensive Program has affected Veteran health care utilization. We will also survey and CSP data to describe caregivers in The Comprehensive Program and how training, the stipend, and other benefits have affected the perceived financial and emotional strain of caregivers and their families. Using mixed qualitative and quantitative methods, we will ascertain the experiences of Comprehensive Program and General Program caregivers and gain important contextual understanding of their perspectives on the helpfulness of the programs, challenges, and/or unmet needs. Finally, we will complement data on services offered by detailing the full delivery costs of the CSP-personnel, programming (e.g. stipend, insurance), and supporting costs.
The purpose of the evaluation is to understand how new mandated support programs for caregivers of Veterans from the Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn Eras, and new general support programs for caregivers of Veterans from all eras, affect the well-being and health of family caregivers and Veterans. Through analysis of medical records, survey data, and in-depth interviews with caregivers, results from this evaluation will begin to inform CSP about its return on investment and provide information on best practices for improving and better targeting its programs.