Battle for Benefits: VA Caregiver Program Changes Could Drop 6,700 Disabled Vets from Benefits

Law Enforcement Today

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Changes to a Veterans Affairs program designed to help provide care for home-bound disabled veterans following a year-long review will be reevaluated after complaints that the changes would cut benefits for thousands of participants.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said top officials will re-evaluate changes to the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), a program providing monthly benefits for eligible Veterans who have incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975, or on or after September 11, 2001.

The program is set to open to all eligible veterans in October, including veterans who served between the Vietnam War and the war in Afghanistan. This expansion prompted the year-long review to “ensure that existing program participants are being treated equitably,” according to Military Times.

Officials expect about one-third of the 33,000 program recipients, or around 6,700 families, to be completely dropped from the program after the proposed changes. It is unclear how many more could see reductions in the amount of financial support they receive each month.

A group of 15 veterans service organizations submitted objections to the changes to PCAFC, which provides elderly and infirm veterans This program provides resources, education, support, a financial stipend, and health insurance, beneficiary travel, to caregivers of eligible Veterans.

One of the major complaints was that the new rules scheduled to go into effect in October “drastically changed the program’s eligibility criteria” resulting in “harsh impacts” for families, according to Military Times.

Others complain that the new rules were designed to cut the number of families eligible for benefits and disregard the medical and emotional needs of the veterans.

During his monthly press conference, McDonough said feedback received regarding the proposed changes concerned him enough to order the reevaluation:

“I am worried about the feedback we’re getting. 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.”

Following a year-long review of the program, where families suffered a rollercoaster of possibilities, ranging between additional eligibility to potential removal from the program, McDonough said that Deputy Secretary Donald Remy would lead a review of the program changes:

“(Review) to make sure that we’re learning everything we can from and that we’re making best use of investments Congress has made in this program.”

McDonough said he expects the evaluation to take several weeks and will focus on changes made to the program and how those changes are being communicated to the participant families:

“(Caregivers) will be a bigger part of the backbone as our aging veterans demonstrate that they, like the rest of the country, want to age in place,” he said. “And so, we want to get this right.”

Families cut from the program in October following the reevaluation will receive an additional five months of payments as they transition out, according to Program Executive Director Colleen Richardson.

Richardson pointed out that families that will be cut from the monthly stipend, which can total up to $3,000 monthly, will still qualify for other benefits including counseling and training:

“And even though they may not qualify for the stipend, they will still qualify for services within the caregiver support program.”

Stipend calculations are based on the severity of veterans’ injuries and the cost of living in the area where they live.

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