Durbin Expansion of VA Caregiver Program Could Help Thousands More Family Members

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 5, 201.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) yesterday applauded the decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to expand the number of caregivers that are eligible for the Family Caregiver Program which provides technical, financial and practical support to family caregivers of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seriously injured in the line of duty. The decision significantly improves an earlier, more restrictive draft and expands the eligibility the pool of eligible veterans from 850 to just over 3,500 as Congress intended.

In February, Durbin joined the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and a bipartisan group of 16 other Senators in urging the Administration to carry out the law as intended and begin providing services to caregivers of wounded veterans as soon as possible.

“Many families are making enormous sacrifices to care for their loved ones,” said Durbin. “They are often forced to give up their full-time jobs, bear the cost of home care and even move across the country in search of treatment. It is past time for our nation to step forward and provide support to these families. I encourage everyone who thinks they may be eligible for benefits under the Family Caregiver Program to begin the application process as soon as possible.”

The Family Caregiver Program was created by a Durbin-authored provision in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 which was enacted May 5, 2010 and directed the VA to begin providing caregiver support by January 30, 2011. Yesterday, the VA submitted their interim final rule which begins a 60-day comment period, after which the VA will decide either to make the rule final or to revise it for the final time. Meanwhile, the interim final rule has the force of law and the VA will begin accepting applications from veterans on May 9, 2011.

Benefits to caregivers will begin in July, but will be retroactive to the date of application, reimbursing those days for which the family was providing care. Information outlining the application process is on the VA’s Caregivers website and available via a telephone hotline: 1-877-222 VETS (8387). Applications can be processed by telephone, mail, online or in person at a local VA Medical Center, where Support Coordinators can assist in the application process.