Expand Eligibility for the VA Comprehensive Caregiver Program
Severely disabled veterans with a service-connected injury or illness do not have full access to caregiver support programs and services from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As a result of Public Law 111-163, the “Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010,” the VA only provides comprehensive benefits as part of the VA Caregiver Support Program to caregivers of veterans with a service-connected injury that was incurred after September 11, 2001. Specifically, these benefits include health care coverage through the VA’s Civilian Health and Medical Program of Veterans Affairs, a monthly stipend based on the care provided, and payment for travel and lodging when participating in medical appointments with a veteran.
The majority of Paralyzed Veterans of America(Paralyzed Veterans) members are excluded from these VA caregiver benefits as a result of the arbitrary selection of the September 11, 2001 date; or because the law also excludes veterans with serious illnesses or diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis(ALS) and Multiple Sclerosis (MS), both of which have a catastrophic impact on activities of daily living, and eventually leave veterans dependent upon caregivers. The need for caregiver support services does not change for service-connected, catastrophically disabled veterans based on the date of injury. No reasonable justification can be provided as to why pre-9/11 veterans with a service-connected injury or illness should be excluded from the comprehensive caregiver program.
To ensure that all service-connected, catastrophically disabled veterans receive adequate caregiver support services from the VA, Paralyzed Veterans recommends that Congress immediately pass legislation to expand eligibility for the VA Caregiver Support Program by eliminating the post-9/11 injury requirement and including “serious illnesses and diseases” in the eligibility criteria. The use of the “date of injury” as an eligibility requirement for such an important benefit is unfair, and likely to have negative impacts on veterans’ quality of care and well-being.