What Matters Most: Services, Support, Someone who Understands

For Capital Caring Health, Veterans Day is just one of the 365 days each year that we honor the service and sacrifices of our vets, with deeds beyond words. Specifically, we help the thousands of aging and ill former military members in our care—and others throughout the area— learn how to live their best possible lives on Veteran’s Day and every day.

It’s a tradition dating back to our founding in 1977. Since then, we’ve proudly served members of the military with a full array of advanced illness care, support services, recognition ceremonies and more. And we’ve recently expanded our offerings to match the growing needs of our area’s large population of retired military members.

Statistics bear us out. Nationwide, there are 12.4 million veterans aged 65 and older. And according to a 2014 study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly 600,000 veterans over 65 resided in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. As the region’s numbers of retired military continues to grow, so too will the need for more tailor-made services and programs.

In response, we launched a Veterans Health and Support Services program last fall under the direction of David Benhoff (Lt. Col., retired), a former Marine and previous volunteer coordinator for Capital Caring Health. After being deployed several times during his 25-year military career, Benhoff knew from his own experience that many area veterans were not getting the special care and assistance they needed, earned and deserved.

Part of that, he says, is due to a certain mindset: Members of the military are trained to provide help, not seek it. But a bigger problem lies in navigating the complex VA system to unlock the often-generous government benefits so many vets have earned. Other veterans may not even be aware of all the help they are entitled to, such as in-home caregiver support, disability compensation, pensions, and healthcare benefits.

Yet, among those we meet or care for, veterans often have the greatest needs, suffering from service-related illnesses and severe chronic conditions.

Take those who served in the Persian Gulf War, for instance. As a group, they develop chronic conditions including high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, stroke, and arthritis about 10 years earlier than non-veterans of the same age, according to a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Veterans are also more likely to report fair or poor health, limitations with activities of daily living, depression and chronic conditions (LTSS Center in Boston). The result is a lower quality of life and shorter life expectancy.

So Capital Caring Health is devoting more energy and resources to help veterans get what they need to improve their lives.

To be as effective as possible, we’ve established relationships with state-level Veterans Affairs offices, accredited agencies and established veterans’ organizations, to help former military members throughout Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., with:

  • Enrolling in the VA healthcare system;
  • Obtaining an accurate diagnosis for service-related conditions;
  • Determining eligibility for disability compensation and pensions;
  • Receiving in-home caregiver support and other services;
  • Gaining access to additional resources for help with everyday challenges, such as transportation, home maintenance, pet therapy, and more.

Beyond service-related support, Capital Caring Health provides a full range of medical and psychological services for those facing life-limiting illness. Care is provided wherever our veteran patients call home from a private residence to a senior living facility or VA nursing home, and more.

As part of that effort, we’re identifying physicians attuned to medical conditions related to military service. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s and ALS all have higher incidences among veterans than the general public. Correctly documenting a diagnosis can release a flood of VA benefits and entitlements, improving the lives of patients and their families in the process.

To make sure veteran patients feel heard and understood, we also match them with former or active duty military volunteers to provide companionship and serve as champions. So far, we’ve partnered with the honored veterans’ organization Heroes Bridge and have formed a “buddies” program comprised of volunteers who are able to assess quality of life and whether there’s appropriate day-to-day support to live at home.

Lastly, we’re partnering with local and regional VA medical facilities, VA community-based outpatient clinics and active duty medical installations to raise awareness of how palliative, hospice and bereavement services can support their medical missions. Toward that end, second-year medical residents from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital do rounds with Capital Caring experts for a week, as an introduction to advanced illness and end-of-life care.

Altogether, our goal is to offer “boots-on-the-ground” assistance that makes a difference in the quality of life for our veteran patients. Call our 24-hour Care Line at (800) 869-2136 to ask questions or schedule a consultation.