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Protecting veterans and their caregivers: DAV supports legislation to improve caregiver program.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a moratorium on discharges and decreases from its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers in December 2018, recent reports show the department is still arbitrarily cutting caregivers from the program.

The VA Office of the Inspector General reported in 2018 that the VA failed to adequately manage the caregiver program and recommended improvements and reforms.

DAV supports the Transparency and Effective Accountability Measures (TEAM) for Veteran Caregivers Act--S. 2216--which would give caregivers and veterans the opportunity to appeal any downgrade or termination of benefits and ensure all caregivers are recognized as part of the clinical team attending to veterans.

"Family caregivers are the unsung heroes for thousands of severely injured veterans, but mismanagement of the VA's Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers has, in far too many instances, caused the improper disruption or termination of needed benefits," said National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. "As a longtime advocate for improvement of this critical program, DAV supports legislation to fully incorporate family caregivers within the veteran's care team, help establish clear standards for VA decision-making and provide a smoother transition for veterans and family caregivers along the program's continuum of care."

The bipartisan bill--introduced by Sens. Gary Peters and Marsha Blackburn--would take steps to improve the program, including:

* Ensuring all caregivers are included in the veteran's medical records. Currently, only certain caregivers participating in the Caregiver Support Program are included in veterans' medical records. Including all caregivers in medical records strengthens communication between the VA and caregivers and recognizes caregivers as part of the clinical team.

* Establishing a minimum standard of information in downgrade notification letters. Caregivers have reported that VA decision letters are sometimes missing important information that would be necessary to file an appeal. This bill would require the VA to provide additional context and explanation leading to downgrade or termination decisions.

* Extending benefits for at least 90 days after a termination letter is sent for cases in which a veteran is deemed "no longer clinically eligible" for the program. Caregivers have reported being dropped within weeks of receiving a termination letter without time to appeal or make new accommodations. This step codifies the VA's goals of maintaining care.

"We applaud Sens. Peters and Blackburn for their commitment to America's disabled veterans and those dedicated family members who sacrifice so much of themselves to help care for them," said Ilem. "We urge Congress to swiftly pass this legislation so veterans and their caregivers no longer have to worry about losing their earned benefits with little to no explanation."

By Mary Dever

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Title Annotation:LEGISLATIVE Spotlight
Author:Dever, Mary
Publication:DAV Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2019
Words:430
Previous Article:LETTERS.
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