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Hudson Intros Bipartisan VA Caregiver Bill

January 30, 2020
January 30, 2020
Hudson Intros Bipartisan VA Caregiver Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (NC-08), the representative of Fort Bragg and a voice for North Carolina’s veterans and their families, released the following statement after introducing the bipartisan Care for the Veteran Caregiver Act (H.R. 5701), legislation to build off of improvements in the VA Mission Act and further modernize the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. Rep. Hudson introduced the bill with Rep. Kathleen M. Rice (NY-04), a Democrat who serves on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
“I continue to meet with veterans, caregivers and their families to better understand their experiences with the VA,” said Rep. Hudson. “This bill makes improvements they’ve asked for to ensure veterans – and their families – can better access the VA Caregiver program. North Carolina’s veterans can count on me to be their voice, and I hope my actions speak loud and clear: I will always fight for the care, service and respect they deserve.”
“So many veterans across the country rely on care from family members,” said Rep. Rice. “We must support these caregivers so they can keep providing for their loved ones in need. I was proud to join Rep. Hudson on this bipartisan bill to improve the VA Caregiver program, and I will continue working in Congress to ensure every veteran has access to the quality care that they have earned.”
“The caregiver program is a lifeline for many families of catastrophically disabled veterans," said Sarah Verardo, CEO of The Independence Fund, a veteran serving charitable organization which assists catastrophically disabled veterans and their caregivers. “The original intent of the program was to be a warm walk beside those dealing with an unexpected and permanent hardship in caring for a severely wounded Veteran, but in many cases the lack of consistency and standards of the program and therefor the fear of being removed takes a huge toll on the caregiver and Veteran and causes undue stress and turmoil amidst an already overburdened life.” Verardo continued, "That service doesn't end with the death of the veteran. After caring for their veteran for 80, 90, or even 100 hours per week, for years on end, the caregiver is stripped other stipend and health insurance 90 days after the veteran's death. That's ludicrous to think a caregiver is going to be able to find a job with insurance that quick."
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. Today’s legislation incorporates a number of the ideas discussed at the roundtable.
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 several small, but 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 the determination of 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.