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Hudson Hosts Press Conference on Veteran Caregiver Act

 
WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (NC-08), Fort Bragg’s Congressman and a voice for North Carolina veterans, hosted a press conference today at the U.S. Capitol Building to discuss the Care for the Veteran Caregiver Act (H.R. 5701), bipartisan legislation he introduced with Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY-04) on Jan. 30. The Caregiver Act will further modernize the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers so that veterans and their families can better access the Caregiver program. Rep. Hudson was joined by Rep. Rice, veterans, veteran caregivers, stakeholders and member organizations of the National Military & Veterans Alliance, a nonpartisan umbrella organization of 35 veteran- and military-serving organizations.
 
“As Fort Bragg’s Congressman and a voice for North Carolina veterans, making sure veterans, their families and their caregivers get the support they deserve is a top priority for me. That’s why I introduced the Care for the Veteran Caregiver Act,” said Rep. Hudson. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure veterans and their caregivers have better access to the VA Caregiver program through extended benefits, permanent eligibility and a standardized evaluation process. I appreciate the support of so many veterans, caregivers and organizations who joined us today and are committed to helping us advance this bill in Congress.”
 
Rep. Hudson and Rep. Kathleen Rice (Left) address veterans, veteran caregivers and supporting organizations
 
In addition to bill co-sponsor Rep. Rice, Rep. Hudson was joined by veteran caregivers including Sarah Verardo, CEO of the Independence Fund. Verardo is the caregiver for her husband, SGT Mike Verardo, who was combat wounded in April 2010 when an improvised explosive device (IED) took his left leg and much of his left arm. Today, Mike and Sarah use their experience as a veteran and caregiver to inspire others.
 
“We’re very grateful for the support gathered today, both of course from two incredible members of Congress, Rep. Hudson and Rep. Rice,” said Sarah Verardo. “Caring for our veterans and their families is something every American can champion. Thank you both for leading this charge.”
 
Patti Cannon, another veteran caregiver, also voiced support for the legislation. Cannon is mom and caregiver to Dillon Cannon, who was shot in the neck by a sniper in Iraq in Dec. 2006. The bullet left Dillon paralyzed from the chest down and with little use of his hands. Cannon discussed how the VA Caregiver program has been frustrating and “too inconsistent across the nation,” citing a need for this legislation to modernize the program.
 
Rep. Hudson with veteran caregiver Patti Cannon
 
Representatives from other organizations who spoke or attended included The Independence Fund, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Caregiver Action Network, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Disabled American Veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project, and TREA: The Enlisted Association.
 
Background
Rep. Hudson regularly meets with veterans and caregivers and holds listening sessions with the military community. He recently hosted a roundtable discussion at the W. G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury to engage the military caregiver community, determine how the VA Caregiver Program can be improved, and ensure the needs of veterans and their caregivers are met. Attendees included Salisbury VAMC Director Joseph Vaughn; social workers who handle caregiver issues; and several local veteran caregivers, including CEO of The Independence Fund, Sarah Verardo. The Caregiver Act incorporates a number of the ideas discussed at the roundtable to build on the VA MISSION Act.
 
Last Congress, President Donald Trump signed into law the VA MISSION Act which included provisions to help our veterans receive the quality care that they deserve. The legislation included a provision that expanded the eligibility for VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to veterans who were injured before September 11, 2001.
 
This was a positive step forward, but there are still improvements that should be made to the caregiver program to support our nation’s veterans and their families. The Care for the Veteran Caregiver Act makes meaningful improvements caregivers need and further modernizes the program.
 
This legislation improves the Family Caregiver Program in three ways:
  1. Extends the stipend payments received by caregivers to 180 days after the death of an eligible veteran. This allows the caregiver sufficient time to adjust after the death of a veteran and aides their transition back to or pursuit of work or education opportunities. Current law removes the benefit after 90 days.
  2. Eliminates unnecessary re-application requirements for veterans who require the most significant levels of care. Current law requires annual re-application for benefits even for the most catastrophically wounded veterans such as amputees and those with severe traumatic brain injuries. This bill directs the VA Secretary to develop a permanent eligibility status for the most catastrophically wounded veterans using the existing criteria under the law. This change removes the administrative burden for these veterans and allows them to focus on treatment and living a fuller life. 
  3. Standardizes the evaluation process for determining eligibility for the program. Current law does not require a standardized review process. This has resulted in varying interpretations across the country and veterans eligibility being changed if they move to a new VISN. This is both inefficient and unfair to veterans and their caregivers, unnecessarily jeopardizing the assistance veterans require.

 

 

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