(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray issued the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that, even after long delays, there is still no definitive date when veterans and caregivers will begin receiving the services required by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. VA also put forth criteria narrowing eligibility for the caregiver program. The VA, in a report submitted today to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, unveiled criteria which would seriously limit access to the benefit further from the approximately 3,500 veterans who would be eligible under the plan passed by Congress and enacted into law on May 5, 2010.
The VA announcement comes just days after Senator Murray sent a bi-partisan letter, cosigned by 17 additional Senators, calling on the Administration to end delays in moving forward with the law which provides the families of seriously injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with training to become caregivers for those veterans, and ongoing supportive services including respite, counseling, technical assistance, and a living stipend. The law directed VA to begin providing caregiver support by January 30, 2011. The Administration is only now preparing regulations - which will have to undergo a lengthy public comment and approval process - to implement the law.
“I appreciate the VA coming forward today with their plan to implement the Caregivers Act. I remain concerned by the delay in moving forward with providing this crucial benefit for those that are taking care of our wounded warriors.
“Unfortunately the plan they put forward today is simply not good enough. The VA outlined how they intended to limit this benefit to an even smaller group of caregivers than intended by Congress, which is unacceptable.
“This law was passed to help support the thousands of family members of veterans who have left behind careers, lives, and responsibilities to see that their loved one can recover from wounds they suffered defending our country. It’s a cost of war that for too long has gone unaccounted for but it’s one that last year Congress very clearly decided that our country must step up to meet. I’m not going to let the VA minimize the impact of the bill that we passed.
“I know that this Administration has made clear that they want to provide new support for our military families. This is a critical step to doing just that. Nowhere is providing support more important than in the homes of those severely wounded veterans who everyday need help from their families just to get through the day.”
February 9, 2011