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In My Father’s Service

In My Father’s Service

Showing up. It is what I was born to do.  
First, a little story. I was born into the military, the daughter of an active-duty jet fighter pilot and Air Force Officer. My father, a decorated Air Force Ret Lt Col, was awarded many medals and honors of valor and service.  He flew 900 sorties in Vietnam and served a career in military service from 1958 - 1980.
Being a military brat born in wartime means I was raised with an elevated level of uncertainty and the only thing reliable is that change will happen at any moment.  We moved six times by the time I was 11 years old, my father was in active combat and not expected to return, and my mother was ‘flying solo’ supporting three young daughters. Change is the only constant.

My father’s service included a high exposure to Agent Orange, a Dioxin defoliant.  His exposure led to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer which is what he was suffering from when I became his caregiver. There was a lot that I did not know including caregiver support systems available for military veterans, Tri-care, and how my father would react when he was taken by cancer.  


November in the U.S. is when we honor both Veterans Day and National Family Caregivers Month. Caregiven’s mission is to share tools and resources to support caregivers and reduce the overwhelm in this selfless act of love.  I want to make it easier for caregivers of military service members to find the support they need ideally before they need it.  


The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) supports honoring veterans and their caregivers. 

The VA’s Cooperative Studies Program (CSP) gives caregivers of veterans “a menu of services to family members and friends who care for veterans” that spans education and support, both online and in person. The following are ten such programs (to learn more, read here): 

  1. "Annie Caregiver" text messaging support.
  2. Building better caregivers online workshop.
  3. Caregiver self-care courses and in-person training classes.
  4. Caregiver support line (CSL) for over-the-phone assistance.  (1-855-260-3274)
  5. CSL caregiver education monthly calls.
  6. General telephone support evidence-based intervention.
  7. Peer support mentoring program. 
  8. Resources for enhancing all caregiver's health (REACH) with intervention from VA clinical staff.
  9. Spanish-speaking telephone support group caregiver calls 
  10. VA Video Connect (VVC) pairing up veterans and caregivers with VA healthcare providers in virtual medical rooms. 

Where does funding for caregivers of military veterans come from?

Our federal government also funds the operations of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Financial support, pensions, education programs, disability pay, and caregiver support for veterans are raised through income tax to aid veterans and their families in the US. 

The federal government’s 2024 budget requests nearly $325.1 billion for the VA, which is “a 5.4% percent increase above fiscal 2023 enacted levels.” Of this, $1.4 billion will go to support veterans’ caregivers-- that’s $350 million more than the previous year--and much of that will end up with the Program of Comprehensive Assistance to Family Caregivers (PCAFC).

According to the VA, the PCAFC program will support “individuals who act as caregivers for Veterans,” and a “phased expansion of the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to include all eligible Veterans, no matter when they served.” 


Once you, as a caregiver of a veteran, learn about the various support programs, the next step is getting help. 

The VA can pay relatives like adult children and spouses to give care to veterans through “consumer direction, self-direction, cash, and counseling, or veteran-directed services.” The range of programs increases the chances of veterans’ caregivers being supported through monetary means.

Eligibility criteria differ for each of the following programs: 

Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers 

This program offers cash benefits to family caregivers for vets injured “in the line of duty’.   If the person that you are supporting, there is some great news.  

As of October 1, 2022, this program is open to family caregivers of eligible Veterans of all eras. This includes eligible Veterans who served after May 7, 1975, and before September 11, 2001. ” Veterans who qualify are those needing assistance with at least one daily activity.

Family caregivers can also receive training, education and counseling. Follow this link to read more at the VA website: VA Family Caregiver Assistance Program | Veterans Affairs

Are you eligible for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers?

This program provides support and benefits to family caregivers of Veterans who have a high level of disability. 

To be eligible, you and the Veteran must meet these criteria: 

  • You are at least 18 years old and either related to the Veteran or living with them full-time.
  • The Veteran has a 70% or higher VA disability rating and was discharged from the military or has a medical discharge date. 
  • The Veteran needs at least 6 months of ongoing, in-person personal care services from you. 
  • Care is defined as supporting the Veteran's health and well-being, personal needs (like feeding, bathing, and dressing), and safety or help in their daily living environment. 
Housebound Pension Benefit

Veterans and surviving spouses with permanent disabilities that render them unable to leave home can receive a monetary benefit with monthly benefits.  

  • Unmarried veterans without dependent children: $1,419 
  • Married veterans or vets with a dependent child: $1,778 
  • Surviving spouses with no dependents: $1,191 
Aid AND Attendance Pension Benefit 

Similar to the Housebound Pension Benefit, this cash benefit for vets and surviving spouses assists those requiring long-term in-home, assisted living, or nursing home care. To learn more about the application process and eligibility for both programs, go here

Under the current plan, a single veteran can get up to $1,936 per month, a married vet with a dependent up to $2,295 per month, and surviving spouses with no dependents can get up to $1,244 each month.  


This program works for veterans of any age who are registered with the VA’s medical benefits package. The flexible monthly budget covers daily activities that include meal prep and managing medications. Participants have control over the benefit money and decide where to spend it; caregivers are paid at an hourly rate set by the VA and adjusted locally. Click here to learn more. 

I hope that helping other military brats and spouses find support and connect with resources decreases your stress, reduces the time you spend on the scavenger hunt, and gives iStock-144797382you more quality time with your loved ones.  At the time when you want to share stories, learn about their service, and hold each other, it is relieving to know there is a community of caregiver support. 

Caregiving is a service that we give freely and bravely to our family. There is honor in this service.  I love you, Daddy.  I will do my best. “Mission first, people always.”