Comprehensive Support for Family Caregivers of Post-9/11 Veterans Increases Veteran Utilization of Long-term Services and Supports: A Propensity Score Analysis.


Family caregivers are an important component of the long-term services and supports (LTSS) system. However, caregiving may have negative consequences for caregiver physical and emotional health. Connecting caregivers to formal short-term home- and community-based services (HCBS), through information resources and referrals, might alleviate family caregiver burden and delay nursing home entry for the patient. The aim of this study was to evaluate the early impact of the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) (established by P.L. 111-163 for family caregivers of seriously injured post-9/11 Veterans) on Veteran use of LTSS. A two-cohort pre-post design with a nonequivalent comparison group (treated n = 15 650; comparison n = 8339) was used to (1) examine the association between caregiver enrollment in PCAFC and any VA-purchased or VA-provided LTSS use among Veterans and (2) describe program-related trends in HCBS and institutional LTSS use. The comparison group was an inverse-propensity-score weighted sample of Veterans whose caregivers applied for, but were not accepted into, the program. From baseline through 24 months post application, use of any LTSS ranged from 13.1% to 17.8% for Veterans whose caregivers were enrolled in PCAFC versus from 3.8% to 5.3% for Veterans in the comparison group. Participation in PCAFC was associated with a statistically significant increased use of any LTSS from 1 to 24 months post application (over time odds ratios ranged from 2.71 [95% confidence interval: 2.31-3.17] to 4.86 [3.93-6.02]). Support for family caregivers may enhance utilization of LTSS for Veterans with physical, emotional, and/or cognitive conditions.





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Publication Info

Shepherd-Banigan, Megan, Valerie A Smith, Karen M Stechuchak, Katherine EM Miller, Susan Nicole Hastings, Gilbert Darryl Wieland, Maren K Olsen, Margaret Kabat, et al. (2018). Comprehensive Support for Family Caregivers of Post-9/11 Veterans Increases Veteran Utilization of Long-term Services and Supports: A Propensity Score Analysis. Inquiry : a journal of medical care organization, provision and financing, 55. p. 46958018762914. 10.1177/0046958018762914 Retrieved from

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Megan E Shepherd-Banigan

Assistant Professor in Population Health Sciences

Dr. Megan Shepherd-Banigan designs research studies to improve the health, emotional well-being, and social functioning of adults with mental and physical disabilities. Her methods combine empirical approaches that address methodologically challenging research questions in health systems and policy research. Dr. Shepherd-Banigan uses large survey and administrative datasets to evaluate the impact of policies that support family members to care for adults with disabilities.  

Dr. Shepherd-Banigan won a VA Career Development Award from 2019-2024 and is studying ways to strengthen family support for veterans under-going traumatic stress treatment. She also leads a project that surveys family caregivers of Vietnam-era veterans who might be eligible for expanded support services under the VA Mission Act to evaluate program impacts. As co-investigator on an NIA-funded CARE IDEAS study (Terri Wetle, PI) , she is investigating end-of-life-care planning and well-being among dementia care dyads.  Finally, Dr. Shepherd-Banigan is leading a project in partnership with the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers to identify creative empirically-based approaches to support family caregivers. 


Valerie A. Smith

Associate Professor in Population Health Sciences

Valerie A. Smith, DrPH, is an Associate Professor in the Duke University Department of Population Health Sciences and Senior Research Director of the Biostatistics Core at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center's Center of Innovation. Her methodological research interests include: methods for semicontinuous and zero-inflated data, economic modeling methods, causal inference methods, observational study design, and longitudinal data analysis. Her current methodological research has focused on the development of marginalized models for semicontinuous data.

Dr. Smith works largely in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of researchers, with a focus on health policy interventions, health care utilization and expenditure patterns, program and policy evaluation, obesity and weight loss, bariatric surgery evaluation, and family caregiver supportive services.

Areas of expertise: Biostatistics, Health Services Research, Health Economics, and Health Policy


Susan Nicole Hastings

Professor of Medicine

Maren Karine Olsen

Professor of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics

Health services research, longitudinal data methods, missing data methods

Van Houtven

Courtney Harold Van Houtven

Professor in Population Health Sciences

Dr. Courtney Van Houtven is a Professor in The Department of Population Health Science, Duke University School of Medicine and Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. She is also a Research Career Scientist in The Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation (ADAPT), Durham Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Dr. Van Houtven’s aging and economics research interests encompass long-term care financing, intra-household decision-making, unpaid family and friend care, and home- and community-based services. She examines how family caregiving affects health care utilization, expenditures, health and work outcomes of care recipients and caregivers. She is also interested in understanding how best to support family caregivers to optimize caregiver and care recipient outcomes.

Dr. Van Houtven  is co-PI on the QUERI Program Project, “Optimizing Function and Independence”, in which her caregiver skills training program developed as an RCT in VA, now called Caregivers FIRST, has been implemented at 125 VA sites nationally. The team will evaluate how intensification of an implementation strategy changes adoption. She directs the VA-CARES Evaluation Center, which evaluates the VA’s Caregiver Support Program. She leads a mixed methods R01 study as PI from the National Institute on Aging that will assess the value of "home time" for persons living with dementia and their caregivers (RF1 AG072364).

Areas of expertise: Health Services Research and Health Economics

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