Macabre news of bodies stacked in a makeshift morgue. Federal emergency teams swooping in to take control of state veterans homes where the coronavirus has killed scores. For veterans, getting care in their own homes has gone from a preference to a matter of survival.
“It’s definitely scary,” says Rob Grier.
His father, Robert Grier Sr., served in Korea and Vietnam, and Rob says if he weren’t taking care of him, his dad would probably need to be in a nursing home. The VA has been good to them over the years, Rob says, especially when his father got lung cancer.
“We were just blessed to have a great team at the VA during his care for that, “he says, “but still, a pre-existing condition, that’s not good for COVID.”
Grier wants to keep taking care of his dad, but he’s not sure he can without help from the VA caregiver program, which is not yet open to older veterans.
Since 2011 the VA has helped caregivers with a stipend, but only for Iraq and Afghanistan vets. In 2018 the VA MISSION Act promised to expand to veterans of Korea and Vietnam, and eventually all veterans who need it.
But who needs it? The VA finally announced its highly technical answer to that question in March after a two-year wait. Anyone with at least a 70% disability rating from the VA can apply. It’s now available to veterans disabled by illness, not just injury. That’s particularly important to Vietnam vets suffering from cancer and other diseases linked to the defoliant Agent Orange.