For our Veterans: Respite resources can help caregivers

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In this new column that will run occasionally, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System director and CEO Terry Gerigk Wolf answers readers' questions about care and benefits for VA-enrolled veterans.

Q. My family member is a veteran who is suffering from dementia. As the only caregiver, I often feel overwhelmed. Where can I get help?

A. Caring for a loved one with dementia is no easy task, but we know that your well-being is central to keeping our heroes healthy and happy. As a result, we've launched a telephone-based Dementia Caregiver Support Program, which is run by a psychologist, social worker and registered nurse. This team holds individual and monthly group sessions for qualified caregivers. The focus is on you -- reducing your stress, arming you with useful tips and enhancing your quality of life. Contact Jennifer Husted at 412-328-5991 for details.

Q. My family member is a veteran who is homebound, which makes it difficult to get to primary care appointments. Can the VA help?

A. Yes, we can come to you. In our Home Based Primary Care Program, our caregivers hit the road to treat homebound veterans who are dealing with chronic and medically complex issues. As part of this program, we provide medical and psychiatric care plus services in the areas of clinical social work, pharmacy, rehabilitation and more. Contact Deb Sykes at 412-954-5444 for details.

Q. I am a veteran, and I want to stay in my home, but daily tasks are becoming increasingly challenging for me. Can VA Pittsburgh help?

A. We are committed to helping veterans maintain their independence at home. Our Homemaker/Home Health Aide Program connects qualified veterans with nonmedical services such as assistance with bathing, meals, laundry, medications, caregiver relief and more. Contact James Martorella at 412-954-5427 for details.

Q. I was not injured during service and I did not serve during wartime. However, I still served my country and I'm a veteran. I wish I could receive VA care.

A. Every case is different, but if you served in the military -- even during peacetime -- the great news is that you may be eligible for VA health care. To learn if you qualify, visit any VA Pittsburgh facility (we have two main campuses: University Drive in Oakland and H.J. Heinz in O'Hara) or go online to to apply for VA benefits.

Q. I heard that if I make too much money, VA health care isn't an option for me. Is this true?

A. Not necessarily. Many factors determine your eligibility for VA health care. To see if you qualify based on your income, use VA's financial calculator at

Q. I am a veteran and I have private health insurance. Does this mean I can't use VA health care?

A. Let's set the story straight here once and for all: VA health care is not health insurance. Assuming that you are eligible for VA care, keeping your private insurance is usually a great idea because it can give you more options and flexibility for your future health care needs.


Have a VA-related question? Write to


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