(U.S. Senate) – Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are expressing concerns over the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) tightened eligibility and delayed roll-out of its Caregivers Program.
Congress expanded the Caregivers Program to veterans of all eras under the VA MISSION Act of 2018. Since the law’s implementation, VA has reported more than 70,000 applications for the Caregivers Program, 27,000 of which were denied. Data shows that the highest percentage of denials were due to the activity of daily living (ADL) requirement and the 70 percent service-connection requirement. In a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough today, the Senators pushed VA to reconsider both the ADL and the 70 percent rule—requirements currently inhibiting caregivers’ ability to receive the benefits they deserve.
“As early as 2018, we cautioned VA against considering any modifications to eligibility that would lead to any decrease in benefits provided or number of beneficiaries served,” wrote the Senators. “Again in 2019 and 2020, we expressed our concern with VA inappropriately curtailing access to the program. Instead, VA chose to ignore input from veterans, advocates and members of Congress and tighten eligibility in a manner not intended by Congress…We are concerned the criteria is too stringent and is leaving many worthy applicants out of this life-changing program.”
The Senators also laid out questions regarding denials and appeals for the Caregivers Program, and resources needed by VA to appropriately implement Phase 2 of the program’s expansion to provide critical benefits and services to deserving veterans and their caregivers.
They continued, “Despite this original mandate to implement Phase 1 expansion by October 2019 and Phase 2 expansion by October 2021, implementation has been delayed so that many veterans and their caregivers must wait until October 2022 before being eligible to apply. We urge this administration to expedite this timeline and allow veterans of all eras to apply as soon as possible.”
Read the Senators’ full letter HERE.