The active component of the U.S. military is comprised of nearly 1.3 million men and women, and that number grows by over 180,000 per year. Military service is a noble calling but a demanding one, and it can take a toll on an individual's physical, mental, and emotional health. As such, the Veterans Administration (VA) provides comprehensive medical care for men and women in active service and for those who have completed their service.
The current veteran population in the United States is over 21.8 million, and it is expected to climb from 43 million to 83 million by 2050 as the millions of Americans who served in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II are reaching the end of their lives. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has responded to the increasing veteran population by implementing initiatives like the Comprehensive End-of-Life Care (CELC) initiative in 2009 to provide veterans with the care they deserve.
Everyone deserves to leave this world with a certain degree of comfort and respect. Hospice care for veterans is designed to relieve pain and to assist with physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms that arise at the end of life. Read on to learn more about hospice care for veterans and to see what benefits Keystone Hospice provides.
What Makes Hospice Care for Veterans Different?
Hospice care focuses on improving and maintaining the quality of life for patients who are experiencing life-limiting illness. It is multifaceted, delivering aspects of medical, emotional, and spiritual support and coordinating care among numerous physicians, nurses, case managers, and therapists. The goal is to create a comprehensive treatment plan to enhance comfort for both the patient and their loved ones during the final stage of life.
Though everyone deserves to take their leave feeling comfortable and respected, our nation's veterans deserve a higher degree of veneration that should be reflected in hospice care. Traditional VA benefits cover hospice care for veterans to address the physical, mental, and emotional trauma that many military members experience during and after their service.
Veterans administration hospice benefits are comprehensive and can be catered to individual needs. Some of the most common issues and limitations veterans find themselves facing at the end of their lives include the following:
- Chronic pain. Military service is physically demanding, and many veterans experience severe musculoskeletal pain and other chronic pain conditions.
- Presumptive diseases. The VA defines presumptive diseases as those associated with exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange and certain herbicides.
- Traumatic brain injury. On top of the typical risk for injury during serious accidents, veterans face more significant hazards on the battlefield such as mines, mortars, and explosives.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This anxiety disorder develops in people who have survived a dangerous or frightening event, and it can follow them throughout their lives.
- Depression. The number of veterans who suffer from depression is twice the national average, though many never receive an official diagnosis.
- Survivor's guilt. Many veterans experience survivor's guilt, and it is closely connected with PTSD and depressive symptoms.
To treat the physical and emotional issues reviewed above, hospice care for veterans includes a wide array of services. Medical treatments may include pain management through the use of medications, physical or occupational therapy, and even music or animal therapy. Mental and emotional issues can be treated with various forms of counseling and guidance provided by highly trained clinicians.
In addition to physical and emotional challenges, many veterans struggle with spiritual issues at the end of their lives. Any terminally ill patient is likely to experience some anger or frustration with life and with God – they may also experience a sensation of spiritual isolation and a fear or anxiety surrounding their impending death. Hospice care for veterans is designed to provide counseling and guidance in these areas, on top of providing medical care and physical or occupational therapy.
Understanding Your VA Benefits
All United States veterans are entitled to medical care coverage, including hospice care. Hospice care services are designed to relieve suffering and help control symptoms. They involve a qualified team of physicians, medical directors, case managers, hospice aides, social workers, and therapists to determine each individual patient's needs and to design and implement a customized treatment plan.
To be eligible for VA benefits, you must be a veteran yourself, a veteran's dependent, or a surviving spouse, child, or parent of a deceased veteran. You may also qualify if you are an active-duty military service member or a member of the Reserve or National Guard. In addition to these general requirements, there are additional criteria to qualify you for VA hospice care.
In order to qualify for veterans administration hospice care, you must:
- Be diagnosed with a life-limiting illness
- Have treatment goals focused on comfort, not a cure
- Have a life expectancy of 6 months or less, diagnosed by a VA physician
As long as you qualify for VA benefits for hospice care, you will not be expected to pay any copays, regardless of whether care is provided by the VA or by an organization operating under a VA contract. At Keystone Hospice, we are very familiar with the requirements set forth by the VA, and we can work closely with you and your family to ensure that you receive the best possible treatment.
Keep in mind that your VA benefits for hospice care are comprehensive, but palliative care is somewhat more limited. If you require palliative care, you may be asked to pay a copay for services. For additional information, see the differences between hospice and palliative care.
How Can Keystone Hospice Help?
At Keystone Hospice, we are veterans ourselves, and we consider it an honor and privilege to provide excellent hospice care to our nation's heroes. We follow a unique approach to hospice care that combines the benefits of complementary medicine with the tenets of traditional medicine. Our services are designed to provide for the mental and spiritual needs of our patients, as well as the physical.
Whether you require in-home hospice care or more comprehensive care in a skilled nursing facility, Keystone will deliver incomparable care to make your final days as comfortable as possible. Our team is highly experienced and trained to deliver a greater quality of care for both veterans and their family members. Our low nurse-to-patient ratio ensures that every veteran receives focused, customized care that doesn't end upon death. Bereavement support for families is offered for a full year.
At Keystone Hospice, it is our goal to treat every patient with kindness and respect. Our staff and services are particularly geared toward providing our nation's heroes with comprehensive, compassionate end-of-life care. We will work with you, your loved ones, and the VA to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits you deserve.