Why Is the VA Suspending Caregiver Assessments?

Pexels-andrea-piacquadio-932352The VA’s action to suspend its caregiver assessments follows months of controversy over the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, which provides monthly financial support to about 33,000 veterans in need of full-time at-home care.

Military Times’ recent article entitled “VA to suspend all caregiver reassessments amid concerns about program rules” reports that VA officials also repeated their promise not to discharge or reduce stipends for any families based on earlier reassessments. This program is open only to veterans who served after 2001 or before 1976, but it’s scheduled to expand to all veterans in the fall. To get ready for that, officials started a review of all existing post-9/11 veteran participants to ensure they still qualified for the stipend under amended rules.

In March, in response to complaints from families about the process, the VA said that about 90% of families who underwent the reviews were scheduled to be removed from the program based on decisions by administrators. That would have dropped almost half of all current families from the program. VA Secretary Denis McDonough responded by suspending plans to remove any families from the program and promised to create new eligibility criteria that is more flexible and less punitive for families.

The stipends — awarded to veterans with service-connected injuries that limit their ability to live independently — are based on where veterans live. However, they are generally about $3,000 a month for the most severely wounded individuals and $1,800 for others in need of around-the-clock care.

McDonough’s announcement in March was met with enthusiastic praise from families, but the reassessments continued in the following weeks. This created confusion among families about whether the promise not to process out participants was still in effect. In addition, several groups reported families who had received notices that they could still be booted from the program in coming months. This latest announcement ends those reviews.

In a statement, VA Deputy Secretary Donald Remy said the move was made to make sure that veterans and their families were not being hurt by the process.

“Although we’ve come a long way in supporting caregivers, we have much more work to do,” he said. “In our effort to uphold our sacred obligation to families of veterans, VA continues its review of PCAFC to ensure department requirements and procedures meet the needs of caregivers and veterans participating in the program.”

No timeline was announced for when that review will be complete.

Reference: Military Times (June 9, 2022) “VA to suspend all caregiver reassessments amid concerns about program rules”

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