(U.S. Senate) – To better support veterans and caregivers nationwide, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are urging Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough to provide updated guidance on its recent changes to the Caregivers Program.
“We write in support of the recent announcement by the VA to suspend discharges from the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (Caregiver Program) and to urge an expeditious and collaborative initiation of program reforms,” the Senators wrote to VA Secretary McDonough. “However, we urge VA to clarify the terms and timeline of the suspension and the status of current applicants and participants in the Program as soon as possible. Many veterans and their caregivers rely on the support this Program provides and must be able to plan for the future.”
In the letter, the Senators highlighted various areas of the Caregivers Program in need of review and reform by VA. This includes improving the application and appeals processes, reforming the invasive assessment process, ensuring a warm hand-off to other VA services and support for those veterans and caregivers denied or deemed ineligible, and providing an easier pathway to advocacy for Veterans Service Organizations and other representatives assisting veterans in navigating the Program.
They continued, “Finally, we urge the Administration to be transparent and clear on next steps as it begins needed reform of the Program. Some veterans and caregivers have now received conflicting information from VA—a notice of potential removal from the Program and now news of a pause on that removal. We recommend you work to mitigate any confusion affected individuals may have given the importance of this Program in their lives and offer mental health services to veterans and caregivers who are in limbo and may be dealing with greater stress than usual.”
At a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing last month, the Senators pressed Department officials on a number of changes to the Caregivers Program, including immediately halting the discharge of legacy participants and starting a new process to revise eligibility requirements to ensure the Program is meeting the intent of Congress. The Committee also heard moving testimony from caregivers about their personal struggles with the Program.
Read the Senators’ full letter HERE.