Senator Murray Raises Concerns Regarding Proposed VA Caregivers Program Expansion Regulations

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, joined Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and several other Senate Democrats in questioning the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) new proposed regulations to cover veterans of all eras under the VA Caregivers Support Program and expand eligibility to individuals with service-connected illnesses. Senator Murray and her colleagues weighed in as a part of the VA’s public comment period that solicited feedback on how to strengthen and improve caregiver support services for those who care for wounded and disabled veterans, following the passage of the VA MSSION Act which included a provision championed by Senator Murray to expand the popular Caregivers program to veterans of all eras.

“While expanding the Caregivers Program to veterans of all eras and making veterans with service-connected illnesses eligible are significant, and highly supported, provisions in the proposed rule, we have concerns related to narrowed veteran eligibility for the Caregivers Program and planned modification for how caregivers’ stipends are paid,” Senator Murray and her colleagues wrote.

The senators additionally highlighted several areas of concern where VA should make substantive changes to provide caregivers with the assistance they need to care for their veterans:

  • Eligibility for caregiver support services should continue to be grounded in the veteran’s need for personal care. VA should eliminate its proposal that would limit eligibility for veterans rated as 70 percent service-connected. Congress and early proponents of the Caregivers Program never intended that VA define a specific rating to establish a baseline eligibility for the Program.
  • The Caregiver Program was created to ensure that it fairly treats all veterans needing assistance. VA should remove proposed requirements that would limit eligibility to veterans who require assistance with at least one Activity of Daily Living (ADL) each time it is performed when many veterans might need help with several ADLs most of the time.
  • VA should reevaluate its proposed regulation that will lead to lower stipends for some current and future participants in the Caregiver Program due to changes in how VA will review a veteran’s need for assistance.

The senators continued, “We support the expansion of the Caregivers Program to veterans of all eras and the Administration’s proposal that would finally make veterans suffering from service-connected illnesses eligible for the Program. However… we fear that some of the proposals, in particular the 70 percent rating requirement and the one ADL needing to be performed independently each time it is performed, will leave many veterans and caregivers needing assistance out of the Caregivers Program. We urge you to re-evaluate these facets of the proposed regulation.”

Senator Murray has led the fight in Congress to expand the VA Caregiver Support Program to veterans of all eras. She successfully included language from her Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Actwhich Senator Murray continuously fought to pass for years, in the bipartisan VA MISSION Act to expand the program to include veterans who served before September 11, 2001. The bill was signed into law in June 2018. Since then, Senator Murray has engaged in continued oversight of the law’s implementation, pressing VA leaders for answers on the Caregivers Program expansion and speaking with veterans in VancouverEllensburg, and King County about their experiences receiving care under the new law.

A copy of the comment can be found HERE.