Senators urge VA not to fumble expansion of caregiver benefits | Military update
Pensacola News Journal
Tom Philpott, Military Update
March 9, 2019
“At this point they have not responded to any of our inquiries,” said Murray in our interview. “They are not answering our questions. They are not telling us what they have in mind. So, we are doing everything we can to make this visible so they, if we have to, are embarrassed into it.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) says she is grateful to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on behalf of thousands of caregivers of veterans who suffered severe physical or mental injuries while in service since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
At Murray’s request, Wilkie last December ordered suspension of further downgrades or stoppage of caregiver benefits to current recipients until VA can attest that its health care facilities nationwide are running and resourcing the caregiver program consistently and as Congress intended.
On the other hand, Murray says, she and Democratic colleagues in the Senate are alarmed by other VA actions related to expansion of the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) to older generations of severely injured veterans as Congress directed under last year’s VA Mission Act.
“VA continues to miss deadlines and not get it right,” Murray said in a phone interview Wednesday. “And we have got to make them step up to the plate and make this work.”
In a Feb. 28 letter to Wilkie, Murray and nine other Senate Democrats, including ranking members on veterans affairs and armed services, contend VA already is months behind in needed upgrades to information technology to begin to extend caregiver benefits to qualified veterans of the Vietnam and Korean War eras by Oct. 1, 2019, as Congress directed.
The letter also charges VA officials with a lack of transparency as they draft regulations to implement caregiver expansion, and criticizes some steps VA has said it wants to take to hold down future program costs, for example, by tightening access to caregiver benefits and changing methods for calculating caregiver stipends. The letter warns Wilkie that VA lacks authority to make some of the changes eyed without getting Congress to change in law.
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Looks like our generation will have to keep waiting.....