VA Offers Hospice Care

Jan 08, 2008

News & Links

America's Veterans


WASHINGTON - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing hospice and palliative care to a growing number of veterans throughout the country as the need continues to rise for care and comfort at the end of life.

VA provides palliative care consultation services at each of its medical centers and inpatient hospice care in many of its nursing homes throughout the country. VA contracts with community-based hospice programs to enhance VA's ability to provide this critical service when and where needed.

"Wherever veterans receive their health care, VA has a system in place to address their hospice and palliative care needs," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "We are dedicated to providing compassionate care and personal assistance to the thousands of veterans and their families who face terminal illnesses."

Nearly 9,000 veterans were treated in designated hospice beds at VA facilities in 2007, and thousands of other veterans were referred to community hospices to receive care in their homes.

The number of veterans treated in VA's inpatient hospice beds increased by 21 percent in 2007. In addition, the average daily number of veterans receiving hospice care in their homes paid for by VA increased by 30 percent this past year.

Because of the large number of World War II and Korean era veterans and a tripling of the number of veterans over the age of 85 from 2000 to 2010, the increase in the need for hospice care is expected to continue. The proportion of Vietnam-era veterans over the age of 65 will continue to increase through 2014, when Vietnam veterans will account for nearly 60 percent of all veterans in that age group.

VA's expansion of its hospice and palliative care capabilities came about through a collaboration with community-care providers. In 2001,the National Hospice-Veteran Partnership Initiative began to build partnerships between VA facilities and community hospice providers, funded in part by the VA and by nonprofit groups such as the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Advanced Illness Care Coordination Center.

To date, VA has partnered with community hospice programs in 35 states to promote hospice services that are not provided directly by VA staff. These partnerships help veterans transition from VA hospitals to their homes in the community.

Palliative care adds a focus on quality of life and comfort to veterans with life-limiting illness, and their families. Palliative care consultation teams include physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains. Additional support may be provided by pharmacists, rehabilitation therapists, recreation therapists, mental health professionals and other specialists.

VA provides palliative care consultation teams at all of its hospitals nationwide, although such services are provided at only about one-fourth of all American hospitals. Nearly half of all veterans who died in VA facilities received care from a palliative care team prior to their deaths.

"VA is committed to helping veterans spend their final days with dignity and comfort, in the setting that best fits their needs and wishes," Peake said.