The VA’s “Secret” Program

The Community Based Care HHA program for Veterans
By Nate Conley, Operating Director at Cornerstone Caregiving, U.S. Army Veteran

Now, of course, the Veterans Administration does not actually have any secret programs (that I know of!), but there is a program available to veterans that is incredibly limited in its exposure. As a veteran, it has been a priority of mine to bring light to this program for the Veteran community in hopes that they have the necessary information to access this benefit that they not only have earned, but they also deserve.

For some reason, almost everyone is familiar with the Aid and Attendance program. But this is an incredibly convoluted, time consuming and exclusive program. Many will seek eligibility through this program and ultimately discover they are ineligible due to the vast stipulations attached to its vetting process. At that point, many veterans or their families get discouraged or don’t understand that there is a potential alternative, specifically when it comes to home care. The Community Based Care HHA program is that alternative.

The HHA Program, which simply stands for “Home Health Aid”, is far more inclusive than Aid and Attendance and has no financial strings attached to its eligibility. And, as far as VA processes, this is actually one of the least stringent that exists.

To know if you’re eligible, the qualifications are as follows:

  • Veteran must have been Active Duty.
  • Veteran must be Honorably discharged.
  • Veteran must be enrolled in the VA Healthcare System.
  • Veteran must be able to prove the need for assistance with at least 2 Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).

I know what you’re thinking: It can’t be that simple, can it? But it is. Some veterans aren’t always sure if they are enrolled in the VA Healthcare System, so the easiest way to determine that is if you have seen a VA physician, for any need, i.e. cardiology, psychiatry or even just a Primary Care Provider (PCP), then you would be in the VA Healthcare System. Now, if you are not in the system, it does not mean you aren’t able to utilize this benefit, it will just take a little bit longer to get you enrolled. To do this, you would need complete a EZ10-10 form and submit that to the VA, along with a copy of your discharge papers (DD214).

Once you determine you are in the VA Healthcare system, you simply alert your assigned VA social worker that you wish to seek home care assistance through the HHA program, and a consult will be submitted on your behalf. Once that authorization referral is received, they will conduct an assessment to determine if you need that one-on-one care and how much care you would be eligible to receive. The determination, as previously discussed, will hinge on the veterans’ ability to show their need for assistance with two ADLs. The 5 basic ADLs are related to these 5 specific activities: Personal Hygiene, Dressing, Eating, Maintaining Continence and Transferring/Mobility. If the veteran can prove they require assistance with at least two of these, then they will grant eligibility through the program and then determine how many hours of care per week they are eligible to received based off of those needs.

At that point, they will ask if the veteran has a home care agency they prefer to provide the care, or if they would like to be assigned one. If the veteran does have an agency preference, as long as that company is an approved VA vendor, they will then be notified and sent a VA approval letter with all of the eligibility details and then care can be initiated for the veteran once an assessment is completed. This is a benefit available at no cost to the veteran. The home care agency bills the VA directly for the care and is reimbursed through the VA.

While the title of this article implies secrecy, this should absolutely not be as little known as it currently is.

If you know of a veteran who could benefit from a one-on-one aide in the comfort of their own home, please help educate and spread the word. They all sacrificed so much for us, so it’s our turn to help return the favor. They’ve earned it. They deserve it.