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New Source of Revenue Helping Veterans (with guest Cheryl Hammons)

(For more on growing your agency, please check out our free "Home Care Growth Best Practices" resource as well.)

A subset of veterans are entitled to paid home care from the VA, but it's hard to qualify and hard to sustain benefits. This is where Veterans Care Coordination (VCC) comes in. Today's guest, Cheryl Hammons, explains how your home care agency can partner with VCC to add a new source of revenue providing home care for veterans.

In this episode of Home Care Heroes, Karl shares advice and perspective on questions from home care agency owners. Topics covered include the following:

To learn more about working with Veterans Care Coordination, you can reach Cheryl Hammons on 855-380-4401. Her email is chammons@vcchc.com and the website is https://vcchc.com/

You can learn more about Karl by visiting ENTPLIFE.com
Home Care Heroes is produced and sponsored by Ankota - the Software for the Heroes of Home Care. We truly embrace the notion that caregivers and home care companies are heroes. Our top priorities simplicity, caregiver retention and outstanding service. Visit us at https://www.ankota.com.
Ken Accardi (00:00):
Today on home care heroes, we're introducing you to Cheryl Hammons who can help you get more customers from the veterans administration. We all know that people love to work with agencies who help veterans. Enjoy

Announcer (00:08):
Welcome to the home care heroes podcast, featuring trending topics and practical wisdom for success in home care. Here's your host, Ken Accardi

Ken Accardi (00:28):
Welcome back to home care heroes. Our guest is Cheryl Hammons and Cheryl is from Veteran's Care Coordination. She's the strategic partnership director there. Hello Cheryl, how are you today?

Chery Hammons (00:41):
I'm great. How are you?

Ken Accardi (00:42):
Good. Thanks again for being here today. So I see that your title. It says Cheryl Hammond, C F E C S a. And I know that like sometimes we see like RN, we know that's registered nurse or MD or things like that. So I wasn't sure what CFI and CSA are. Could you tell us what, what those are?

Chery Hammons (01:01):
CFE stands for certified franchise executive? For many years I worked in a franchise system. We still support that franchise system through veteran's care coordination. A lot of home care agencies are franchised. And so I am a certified franchise executive and CSA stands for certified senior advisor, and it is an organization out of Colorado that does quite extensive training on what it's like to be a senior and gives you a sort of a overview of all of the senior services, not just the home care, but anything that has to do with seniors. And we all work together of continuing education. So that's what they stand for.

Ken Accardi (01:48):
Fantastic, well, home care heroes is all about, we consider anybody who helps take care of our elderly or disabled and keep them living in their home. Instead of institutional care, we consider them to be our heroes and, we want to make life easier for those heroes and help them in every way possible. So thanks for having that fantastic background and everything that you do just to introduce this segment. We talk about different topics and this is really one about, growing your agency. And more specifically, when we start working with, one of our customers who uses an Coda software you're generally, or the agency is generally, saying, Oh, like I'm a, I'm a Medicaid agency. We, we do all of our work with,with Medicaid or where we, our private duty agency, it's all private pay.

Ken Accardi (02:36):
We have maybe a little bit of long-term care insurance and that type of thing. And what I think a lot of agencies don't really recognize is there's a lot of other sources of income out there and they just don't really know how to tap into them. So there's sometimes County programs or, special programs out of the area agency on aging and things like that. But you specifically work in the area of, helping veterans and surviving spouses get home care benefits and that type of thing. So why don't you start by telling us, like, what is it take, I guess, what home care benefits can a veteran or their surviving spouses get and what do they need to,how do they need to qualify for those benefits?

Chery Hammons (03:22):
Well, there's a little low known benefit called the pension with aid and attendance. And it is for war time veterans. So anyone who served at least one day during a war period, and at least 90 days of active duty prior to 1980, anything after 1980 is 24 at 24 months of active duty and one day during a war period. So that's world war two Korean conflict, the Vietnam era. And then of course the Gulf war, which is still not designated as over yet. So anything in that period would then meet that qualification. There's also a need space. They need to have to have a need for assistance with activities of daily living. And it had primarily need to be non-service related. So like Alzheimers, heart disease diabetes, those kinds of things that were not necessarily service related.

Chery Hammons (04:24):
And then their asset level needs to be below $130,773. And that excludes a home and two acres of land and a car. So if their assets are below that, they're, they're a war time veteran. And there, the last one really is that income to medical expense ratio. So for instance, say you get a thousand dollars a month. You're in medical expenses, which are predictable and reoccurring must exceed that thousand dollars. And so that's where this benefit comes in because it will put primarily home care in place and take that expense off of the plate of the family particularly. So it's a great benefit. It's a lifetime benefit as long as you stay within the parameters of the benefit. And it, it is also true for senior, excuse me, surviving spouses are eligible for that as long as they have not remarried and were married at, with the veteran at the time of his death.

Ken Accardi (05:30):
Okay, let me let me just recap. There's been a lot here to unpack it. So it sounds like so first of all, I mean a big takeaway messages. It's, it's a great benefit, but it's a hard benefit to qualify for and to stay qualified for. So, so that's an important thing. So it sounds like to qualify, you have to have served and the right time, you have to have, needs for help with activities of daily living. And you need to be in a financial where I hate to say it, but it sounds like you're a little bit underwater,based on your benefits. And so I guess he gave an example of, if they're getting a thousand dollars a month and then they need care,their care is probably going to cost over a thousand dollars a month. So it sounds like you have this program that can help get that cost of that care is not going to be the burden on the family anymore. It's going to be something that the veterans will pay if they qualify and stay qualified. Okay. So,I, I've seen you nodding a lot, which is amazing. I think I'm getting it perfect. But now, like, tell us a little bit more, like, how does the program work? And like, how does veteran's care coordination work with a home care agency to make this happen?

Chery Hammons (06:44):
Well, we partner with home care agencies across the United States. We, we get them, they have to meet requirements through insurance liability insurance and workers' comp. We have some certain conditions because we only want to work with people who are gonna provide the most quality care for our veterans that deserve that care. And so take you briefly through what happens. We provide a lot of marketing materials to our partners so that they can blanket their community and really reach all veterans, not just veterans who, pply for this or possibly could get this benefit. So we really want to reach all veterans. One out of 10 veterans will qualify. You're right. It's a, it's a difficult one to, ualify for, but they're only about 3% of veterans who would qualify even know about this benefit. So we work really hard working through agencies and through ourselves to really educate people about the benefit they call us.

Chery Hammons (07:47):
They send us the information about the veteran we take on over at that point for this benefit, we walk through it with them. It can be very complicated and very cumbersome to do it. So we worked through the process of the application. Now what we do, which is unique is that a lot of times the care needs to be in place before they can qualify for the benefit. So that's a catch 22 thing because they don't have the money for it, but they need to have it. And so we have a care advance loan,that is interest free that we can do give to the, the veterans so they can start the care. Now, once they get the application in place,we're, we're averaging about three to four months before. We get an answer which we're at 99.5% approval.

Chery Hammons (08:39):
So we kinda know by the time we put them in, whether they're out actually eligible or not saves a family, a lot of stress, and it takes the stress off the agency as well. And so once they're approved, monies are paid retroactive back to the, to the date first day of the month, following the application. So say today I put an application in for a veteran and they get approved. They'll pay back funds all the way to January 1st. So we try to start the care around that period. So there's little to no in out of pocket expense for the veteran or the family. And then the loan is satisfied and we move forward. So it's a great thing for veterans, especially if they can't afford the care.

Ken Accardi (09:26):
Okay. Got it. So let me try to recap again. So it sounds like, again, there's this, this big catch 22 is that they have to have the service. They have to sort of be spending beyond their means already to get it, and they can't spend beyond their means. So that becomes a barrier and that's a barrier that you help them get over through this loan. And it sounds like, I mean, the, the payback is pretty well guaranteed because you have, like you said, 99 plus percent rate of people who actually get the benefit. But I'm a little confused on the timing, because I think you said it takes like three to four months and, and it dates back to, I guess the, the first of the month after the application is put in. So we're actually speaking, and we never know when people are going to listen to the podcast, but we're speaking right before the end of the year, Christmas week. And you're saying, so if somebody put in their application today that they would be, they could be reimbursed through,back through January 1st of 2020, and maybe they would get that approval. Okay.

Ken Accardi (10:33):
That's what I meant to say. Okay. So got it. So they put in the application today, you give them that wound to start their services. So essentially you're giving that then that care advanced loan and that's paying for their services January, February, March, and then they get approved and then, then the veterans will basically pay that back. So that's how you guys ended up whole, but you've gotten them over the hurdle and you've, you've gotten that person taken care of. So I feel like I've heard a story where like, what happens when, like that individual has like a car that's been sitting around in their garage, right. And they're not driving anymore. And their grandson wants that car and that, and is willing to pay them $4,000. So they have this situation where it's like, Hey, we're going to you're going to buy grandpa's car for $4,000. And I guess the veteran could get audited and that sort of thing. And then all of a sudden they find out that they, because they sold their car. That one, at that one point they're in trouble. I mean, is that something you guys could help with as well?

Chery Hammons (11:42):
Yeah, it most certainly is. Up to the point where I just talked about getting approval, there are other organizations that can do that. There's attorneys who can do that. People can try to do that on their own is very complicated and can take a long time. We're, we're about a three to four month average because we have a team that basically calls and pushes that application through and they're regularly calling and we have really a dedicated team just to do that. But say, we get through that where I think we really shine is on the other side. And that is to help that client maintain the benefit, because like I said, it is a lifetime benefit. So therefore you want them to keep it for as long as they need it. So what we do in that situation is we work with that veteran to ensure that their income, their asset level, doesn't fluctuate to a point that they can lose the benefit and ultimately have to pay it back, or their, their social security can actually be garnished.

Chery Hammons (12:50):
If they go back and do that, I know a particular incident where we had this particular client and they went into an assisted living facility. Now, once they do that, this the system living facility takes over managing the benefit. They did not do a good job and the veteran got audited and we were able to provide all of the documentation up to the point of that person going into the system living facility with assisted living facility could not satisfy that part. And they were going to have to go back and pay all of the monies back, which was like $40,000. And so, and that's when I learned that they could actually garnish their social security. Fortunately, we were able to help that client with enough documentation and help the facility that that didn't happen, but it was, it was a scary time for the family. And that's where I think we show the greatest value is helping that client maintain that benefit for as long as they need it.

Ken Accardi (13:59):
Okay. Wow. So, so it's a hard benefit to qualify for. It's really hard to get the application through and to be over the hurdle and, and have that ability to have, let's say your home care in place before you get it. And then it's hard to maintain ongoing. So it sounds like there's, there's really a lot of value from your organization providing that. And I think it's only the way you guys make money is that you're going to essentially be the financial agent. You're going to bill the veterans the VA for the hours, and then the home care agency is going to get paid for the care, but you're going to take a margin on that. Right. So you're going to take a percentage of that payment. And it sounds like for everything you do, I mean, between, getting them over the goal line, getting them the loan to get started, keeping them qualified it it's, it sounds like, really, really a great benefit is that, did I get that correct?

Chery Hammons (14:56):
Well, it, it, it works slightly different than that. It is a it is a use it or lose it benefit. So the actual monies go to the veteran, we set up an ACH, we withdraw the funds from the veteran, from the separate account, and then we pay the agencies. So we don't necessarily build the, the VA. We set up all of that between the veteran agency and, and ourselves it's, it's essentially like a private pay option,but through a third party, but you're right. We take all the stress off the family and the agency,agencies have so much going on, especially during this pandemic, trying to find enough caregivers, making sure everybody's covered the shifts and, trying to make a profit. And we take all of that stress off because,unfortunately in some parts of the country,VA payments are, are very slow and, you're paying out the resources until you get payment. And that's something that we take on that risk and we pay our partners,every 30 days once they've,started that initial 90 days. So, they can, they can count on that as long as they send us an invoice.

Ken Accardi (16:16):
Right. Perfect. Yeah. I was actually speaking to one of our clients in the day who, and I was, I didn't know that they used your service and I asked them, I was going to ask them if this would be something interesting to them. And they said, Oh my gosh, we work with them. And it's amazing, because, as you said, I mean, they get the client, they get them for awhile. It's a lifetime benefit. They're getting paid every 30 days, whether the VA is ahead or behind and that sort of thing. And now I think when you work with a home care agency, are you you're, like what you can be reimbursed for by the veterans in that state and you negotiate a rate. So there's no surprise. It's not like, anything like that. Now, I guess in some areas like if, if the if what the veterans will reimburse is, just, just , well below what the market is for caregivers. Like, I think you told me that there's some geographic areas where you've had trouble like high, very high pain or a high cost of living area like San Francisco or something. But I get that, right. Yeah.

Chery Hammons (17:21):
Yeah. It's really tough. And they, they already have a pretty high minimum wage in that area. And unfortunately the department of veteran affairs sets the rate every year and it isn't set based on areas. So obviously the cost of living in sin, the San Francisco and the Bay area is very expensive. Versus if you were in Knoxville, Tennessee where the cost of living was, would be extremely different, but the rate is the same. So in there, so in some areas of the country, it's a little more challenging to get the hours I know there was a show on television, not too long ago, where they had the same amount to spend on a house and they would tell you what you could get in San Francisco. And this particular one was what you would get in Charleston, South Carolina. And it was a massive difference. Well, it's, it's similar in this situation, the amount of hours that the client can get for per month really depends on where they live.

Ken Accardi (18:22):
Yeah, perfect. It makes it, I mean, it just makes sense that that's how it is, but when you do find an agency, that's going to be a good partner and then you'll know what the rate is. And then you'll like set a rate with the agency. Is that how it works?

Chery Hammons (18:37):
Yep. We set we have a contract with the agency. We contract a certain reimbursement rate with them, and then we provide monthly campaigns for them. Like next month is one of my favorite ones we do, and it's making 20, 21 your senior's best year. And so we give tips on ways that they can really highlight some things for a senior to do or experience at, even in light of a pandemic. And it, we do this February is heart month and we provide all of this material to our partners to be able to really educate their community about the pension with an attendance. And so it is a partnership it's, we're not a vendor. We don't want to be a vendor. We want to be a partner.

Ken Accardi (19:26):
Yeah. Fantastic. Okay. So let's say that I run a Medicaid agency. I'm used to, like some of, I, I know that you're not in Missouri, but your, your company's in Missouri. And I know for example, that the consumer directed services reimbursement rate in Missouri is around $16 an hour. And the the in-home care reimbursement rates are, somewhere between 16 and 20, a little bit closer to 20, but but ultimately you're able to, try to figure out what the rates are and negotiate a rate. And if they are doing, Medicaid services and they're a solid agency in a, in a rural area, it's probably gonna work out. And then like, like we said, if you're, right. Kosta San Francisco, New York city, one of those kinds of things might be a little bit tougher. But so I guess if let's say that an agency owner is listening to this and saying, Hey, there's veterans in my area, I have relationships in the community. I'd like to see if we could, get this help for these veterans and that sort of thing. So what would they do next?

Chery Hammons (20:28):
Well, they need to reach out to us. And they could call eight five, five, three eight, zero 4,400, or they can email me at C H a M M O N S as in Sam, at VCC C. And I'd be happy to talk to them about it. The beauty of what we do is the veteran does not have to use the VA medical program. So they don't have to go to VA doctors. They don't have to go to the VA hospital and there are veterans everywhere. And sometimes you don't even realize, so there are veterans and my dad, it was a army veteran, but he never talks about it. You would never know he was in the army. Matter of fact you have to ask him and then he will, Oh yeah, yeah. I was in the army. And then you have surviving spouses say their spouse died 15 years ago and they now need home care, but they don't know how they're going to pay for it.

Chery Hammons (21:31):
Unless you ask, they may not even think to tell that their husband was a veteran or the wife was a veteran and they may miss out on that benefit. The really, the other good thing is in all States except Pennsylvania they can stack Medicaid hours on with this benefit. So then you may have a client who's getting, 20 hours a week and they may be able to get additional hours if they qualify for the benefit. It sounds like it's hard to qualify, but we have served over 14,000 veterans with this benefit. So it, it is, it, it is narrow, but it, people can qualify and they can keep it or the, the remaining of their life.

Ken Accardi (22:18):
All right. Perfect. I think we'll wrap it up there. So it's a great opportunity for a partnership with Veterans Care Coordination. To reach Cheryl Hammons again, the phone number is (855) 380-4400. Or you can email C Hammons that's C H A M M O N S at VCCHC.com. And the website is VCCHC.com We're going to wrap it up there. Thanks again for being on this segment of home care heroes, and we wish you all the best!

Announcer (22:59):
Thanks for joining us today on the home care heroes podcast, home care heroes is produced by Ankota the software for the heroes of home care. You can listen to back episodes by visiting for home care heroes.com. That's the number four. Then the words, home care, heroes.com.

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