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The Veteran’s Administration Respite Care Benefit Q&A with Patty Lieber, Social Worker for the Veteran’s Administration

By Denise Roskamp

The Veteran’s Administration Respite Care Benefit Q&A with Patty Lieber, Social Worker for the Veteran’s Administration

Patty Lieber is a licensed clinical social worker (LICSW) for the Veteran’s Administration (VA) and Homeless Veteran’s Clinic. She also covers VA outpatient services in Boston-area towns including Framingham. We caught up with Patty recently to help the community learn how veterans and their families can benefit from this little-known care program.

Can you tell us about the VA Respite Care Program?

Respite Care from the Department of Veteran's Affairs is a great program that pays for a Home Health Aide to come to a veteran’s home up to 30 visits per calendar year (and up to six hours per visit). Typically, this program serves veterans with dementia or some other chronic illness that makes them unsafe to be left alone. By providing this service, caregivers (usually a spouse or family member that lives with the veteran) can take a break to attend to his or her own needs.  The benefit cannot be used for a caretaker to go to work but is designed for the caretaker to tend to their own medical appointments, do errands, enjoy some socialization, pursue a hobby or attend worship services. If a veteran lives alone, they would not be eligible for this benefit.

There is also the community residential respite care benefit which is located on the Brockton, Massachusetts VA campus. This is a small residential unit that fills up very quickly (especially during summer and holiday periods) that also allows veterans up to 30 days of inhouse care while their family is enjoying some vacation time, attending a family event that is not conducive for the veteran, or for family members who need a break from their caretaking responsibilities. It cannot be used while a caretaker is recovering from surgery or a medical situation.

How does a Veteran become eligible?

Respite care is for veterans of all ages who have cognitive or physical issues which render them unsafe to be left alone while their caretaker is caring for their own personal needs.

Veterans who are already enrolled in the VA healthcare system and have a VA primary care provider that they see at least once per year are entitled to this benefit and should contact their local VA clinic for information. Veterans who are not yet enrolled in VA healthcare, will need to enroll by contacting the Eligibility Center at 857-865-4418. Veterans will need to provide a copy of their DD-214 and will need to be deemed eligible for VA care. Veterans must also have a general or honorable discharge. Once enrolled, veterans will need to be seen by their VA primary care provider at least once a year to access this benefit.

How can I contact the VA to take advantage of this program?

The Patient call center number is 857-364-4418. For Veterans in the MetroWest – they can contact me directly by calling 617-248-1361 or email patricia.lieber@va.gov.

For more information about the program as well as in-patient benefits: https://www.va.gov/GERIATRICS/docs/Respite_Care.pdf