Changes in the VA Family Caregiver Program Affects Thousands of VeteransTuesday, October 12, 2021
The Department of Veterans Affairs has recently announced that it will be reviewing approximately 20,000 cases to determine whether the new standards for the VA Family Caregiver Program are met. The new eligibility requirements were put into effect last year, but many had been deemed eligible before this transition.
As a result, some veterans and families are at risk of losing support from the VA’s program. While a given review might completely dismiss an individual from the program, it is also possible that monthly stipends will go up or down.
The caregiver program helps those who help veterans in need of significant assistance with daily needs. This could be a spouse, family member, friend, or helper. In 2019, the program expanded to include veterans from World War II to the Vietnam War. Yet, at the same time, new eligibility criteria went into effect. The new criteria reduced the categories of caregiver status from three to two and did not grandfather in those already in the program.
Cases that involve post-9/11 combat veterans for whom the program was initially created, would be reviewed under the new eligibility requirements. The VA expected to review the entirety of these types of cases by October 1st, 2021. The number of applications for the newly eligible cohort far exceeded their expectations, however. As a result, the review of existing program members has been delayed as they’ve decided to prioritize these new applicants.
Colleen Richardson, Caregiver Support Program Executive Director, said that “We felt the legacy group was already receiving care and receiving stipends payments and services, and the veterans applying for the program did not have anything.”
The assessment process discerns the level of care needed for a given veteran, which could be help with getting dressed, bathing, cooking, or other daily tasks. Under the new system, two groups are those who require the highest level of care and those who require substantial care but are more independent. Those in the higher level of care group need round-the-clock supervision and help with three or more tasks a day.
The elimination of the third tier of benefits will result in approximately 6,700 veterans losing caregiver benefits. According to an interim rule, this group will receive benefits for 12 months until October 1st, 2022, followed by ninety more days of coverage before dismissal from the VA Family Caregiver program.
Any changes to monthly stipends will go into effect on that same date in 2022. According to the VA, the reassessments will begin in the next couple of weeks, and letters will be sent to veterans affected by the changes. The VA is working to ensure that veterans know that there is an appeals process, should their benefits be denied or downgraded.
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