Gaps in long-term care noted by ombudsman

January 4, 2018 by Sharon Adams
www.ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca

Some elderly and disabled veterans are falling into a gap between support provided to help them remain in their homes as long as possible and entry into long-term care, says Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent.

The Veterans Independence Program (VIP), which helps pay for housekeeping and yard work, is not enough support for some veterans who need extra help to continue to live independently, says his report, Continuum of Care: A Journey from Home to Long-Term Care, released in October.

This gap would disappear if Veterans Affairs Canada looked at later-life support as a continuum of care, rather than programs with individual eligibility criteria. “Everything should be defined by the needs of the veterans,” Parent said, “and not by where and when they served.”

The report recommends merging the VIP and long-term care programs, so that eligibility is determined once, criteria is more easily understood and access is based on the physical and mental health needs of the veteran.

Now is the time to review programming and funding, says Parent, as the number of war-service veterans diminishes and before numbers of medically released post-Korean War veterans cumulate. Costs for VIP and long-term care for war-service veterans are forecast to decrease during this transition, freeing up funds that could be devoted to assisted-living support under a continuum of care. 

“The savings to government could be as much as $25,000 to $30,000 a year per person,” over long-term care, said the report.

Lack of informal caregivers pushes veterans into long-term care earlier than necessary. Traditional veterans may have difficulty finding an informal caregiver for a number of reasons, including loss of spouses and children living far away.

Veterans under the New Veterans Charter (NVC) receive less financial support from VAC that can be applied to assisted-living costs. “This gap…can potentially create an incentive for NVC veterans to seek better subsidized care in a long-term care facility,” said the report.

The report makes six other recommendations, including assessing VIP recipients’ needs at least annually, so more support can be arranged as it is needed.

It also recommends eliminating inconsistencies in eligibility for VIP of spouses and survivors of ill and injured veterans and to base service on their needs, regardless of what the veteran received prior to an involuntary separation or death. 

There are 28 categories of veterans for long-term care funding alone. “There are simply too many categories of veterans leading to complex webs of eligibility for various programs.”

From home care to assisted living and/or long-term care, “VAC programs provide significant support,” says the report. Nevertheless, 15 per cent of complaints to the ombudsman relate to VIP and the long-term care program.

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