The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plans to have home care options available for aging veterans at all of its medical centers within five years.
The VA announced the expansion of three programs under its Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care in a press release last week. All three programs are meant to be alternatives to nursing home care, and the move is in response to high anticipated growth in nursing-home-eligible veterans in the coming decades.
“These programs provide an in-home or smaller care setting than traditional institutionalized long-term care,” reads the release. “Many veterans have chosen these programs instead of institutionalized care during the pandemic for more flexibility in care preferences and less risk of COVID transmission.”
The VA is obligated by the 1999 Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act to provide veterans who meet a certain disability rating with nursing home services. The VA’s Policy Analysis and Forecasting Office estimates the number of nursing-home-eligible veterans will double between 2019 and 2039, from 2 million to 4 million veterans.
The three programs the VA plans to expand are:
- Home-Based Primary Care – For people who need in-home support from a health care team because of major or complex conditions
- Medical Foster Homes – Facilities where a caretaker provides services to a small number of people as an alternative to a nursing home
- Veteran-Directed Care – A program where veterans hire their own staff for help with household personal care activities
According to the release, the VA is planning to open 58 Medical Foster Homes, start 70 Veteran-Directed Care programs and increase the number of Home-Based Primary Care teams by 75 across the nation. The goal is for this expansion to be complete by October 2026.
Veterans’ caregivers have been in focus recently, especially during the pandemic. At a convention for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation this past October, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough acknowledged that “caregivers have been overlooked” by the VA, but vowed a renewed emphasis on supporting veterans’ caregivers going forward.