(U.S. Senate) – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced it is making sweeping changes to its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (Caregivers Program) following efforts from Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester who released the following statement:
“VA’s decision to reevaluate the previous Administration’s restrictive policies is a step in the right direction for the nation’s veterans and their caregivers. I’m glad the Biden Administration is taking the concerns of veterans and caregivers seriously and implementing changes to ensure they are not unfairly denied access to a program that has made a difference for so many. I look forward to discussing VA’s vision for the Caregivers Program tomorrow in our hearing, so we can hold them accountable to deliver family caregivers in Montana and across the country the support they deserve.”
Included in a number of proposed changes to the Caregivers Program was a decision by VA Secretary Denis McDonough to immediately halt the discharge of legacy participants and to start a new process to refine eligibility requirements to ensure the Program is meeting the intent of Congress.
Tester led the fight for years to expand the Caregivers Program to veterans of all eras—successfully including language in the bipartisan VA MISSION Act of 2018. Under the Trump Administration, VA defied Congress and the concerns of veterans and caregivers by enacting regulations that narrowed the Program’s eligibility to veterans with a 70 percent or higher service-connected disability rating, and those with an inability to perform an activity of daily living without assistance each and every time the activity occurs.
Since implementation of the Trump Administration’s restrictive regulations, Tester has continuously raised concerns and called on VA Secretary Denis McDonough last year to reconsider the Department’s tightened eligibility and delayed roll-out of the Caregivers Program. The Senator underscored these concerns with the Caregivers Program publically at a hearing earlier this month with veteran stakeholders. As Chairman, Tester will lead a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee oversight hearing tomorrow to hear directly from VA officials, Veteran Service Organizations, and caregivers on ways to improve the Caregivers Program.