(U.S. Senate) – Following a push from Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced it will suspend its annual reassessment process for participants in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (Caregivers Program) as part of its ongoing review of the Program’s eligibility criteria. The annual reassessments of veterans and their caregivers is an extremely invasive process, often taking a mental and physical toll on family caregivers. VA also announced it will not discharge participants in the program or reduce stipends based on a reassessment.
“VA’s decision to pause discharges and reassessments in the Caregivers Program is the right move for our nation’s veterans and their caregivers,” said Chairman Tester. “I’m glad the Biden Administration is taking the concerns from family caregivers in Montana and across the country seriously, and continuing to move the ball forward on getting these folks the support they deserve.”
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. These new regulations would have led to an estimated 90 percent of Post-9/11 veterans losing their eligibility for the program. Following the Biden Administration’s pause in discharges from the Program, veterans and caregivers remained concerned that ongoing eligibility reassessments would be used to discharge them from the program in the future.
In response to the Trump Administration’s restrictive regulations, Tester raised concerns and urged Secretary McDonough to reconsider the Department’s tighten eligibility and delayed roll-out of the Caregivers Program. Following Tester’s push, McDonough announced sweeping changes to the Program earlier this year.
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. At a Committee oversight hearing in March, Tester called on VA Secretary Denis McDonough to revise the Program’s eligibility requirements and reform the reassessment processes to ensure the Caregivers Program is meeting the intent of Congress. The Senator also led a bipartisan push in April, urging transparency and updated guidance on the Department’s recent changes to the Program.