“I am worried about the feedback we’re getting,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough told reporters at his monthly press conference on VA issues. “We work for caregivers, we work for the veterans. We want to make sure that they’re getting the information they need and clarity about why we’re making the decisions we’re making.”
Military Times’ recent article entitled “Changes to VA caregiver programs being reconsidered amid complaints” reports that earlier this month, a coalition of 15 veterans service organizations made formal objections to planned department changes in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, which provides stipends to family members who provide home care to elderly or infirm veterans.
About 20,000 caregivers of injured veterans will have their cases re-examined to see if they still qualify for the benefit. Some of the complaints were that the new rules “drastically changed the program’s eligibility criteria” resulting in “harsh impacts” for families.
Roughly 33,000 people are currently enrolled in the program, which provides support services and monthly stipends to caregivers of veterans unable to perform basic self-care activities.
The stipend is set to expand in October 2022 to include families of veterans who served between the Vietnam War and the Afghanistan War, motivating the VA to ensure that existing program participants are being treated equitably.
VA officials announced in the fall of 2021 that it anticipated about 6,700 families would be dropped from the program under the changes. However, no families would see any financial payouts decreased or ended before October.
The thought was to make sure these people would have time to get ready for the financial effect of losing the stipends, which can total more than $3,000 a month. However, advocates objecting to the changes have said they’re too restrictive and unforgiving, aimed more at culling families from the program than balancing veterans’ medical and emotional needs.
McDonough said that, in near future, Deputy Secretary Donald Remy will lead a review on the project thus far “to make sure that we’re learning everything we can from it and that we’re making best use of investments Congress has made in this program.”
Reference: Military Times (Feb. 16, 2022) “Changes to VA caregiver programs being reconsidered amid complaints”