03.05.15

Baldwin, Durbin Introduce Expansion of VA Caregivers Program that Would Help Thousands More Veterans and their Families

Expansion would allow eligible veterans from all wars to apply for program

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced the introduction of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Family Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act, a bill that would open the VA Family Caregivers Program to all eligible veterans who were severely injured while serving our country. The Family Caregivers Program provides home health training, peer support, and a small financial stipend to caregivers of severely injured veterans. The caregivers also have access to mental health support and enrollment in the VA’s Civilian Health and Medical Program, if they are not already eligible.

Enacted in 2010, the original Family Caregivers Program was limited to post-9/11 veterans. Today’s bill would allow eligible veterans from all wars to apply for the VA Family Caregivers Program. The VA has estimated that at least 70,000 more veterans would be eligible under the expansion of the Family Caregivers Program.

“Family caregivers of America’s severely ill and injured veterans make up a critical support system for our nation’s heroes, providing assistance that allows their loved ones to remain in their homes and preserves their quality of life,” said Baldwin. “I’m proud to join Senator Durbin today to fix an existing inequity these hidden heroes face by expanding the eligibility for VA family caregiver benefits to cover all severely disabled veterans.  It is past time that we support each and every family caregiver who supports our veterans.”

"Senator Baldwin's introduction of the Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act of 2015 is greatly appreciated by DAV Wisconsin. This legislation is badly needed. Many seriously injured Wisconsin veterans and their families have communicated to us eligibility concerns with the current law. This legislation addresses these concerns. It treats all severely injured veterans requiring caregiver services equitably," said Al Labelle, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Wisconsin Legislative Director.

"The majority of Wisconsin PVA members are excluded from the comprehensive VA caregiver program. No reasonable justification can be provided for why veterans injured before September 11, 2001 should be excluded from the caregiver program. We thank Senators Baldwin and Durbin for introducing legislation to correct this inequity," said Phillip Rosenberg, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Wisconsin Chapter President

The Family Caregivers Program was created by a Durbin-authored provision in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009, which was enacted in 2010. The VA began providing caregiver support in 2011 and has been a success for veterans and their families. 22,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan participate in the program today.

“We owe each and every veteran a great debt of gratitude,” said Durbin.  “The VA Family Caregivers Program proved it can make a difference in the lives of America’s heroes and the dedicated caregivers who made the decision to care for them.  Expanding this program to veterans of all wars will make tens of thousands more families eligible for critical homecare services and financial assistance. With this bill, we are on the way to helping many families in need and can finally provide assistance to the caregivers of veterans of all eras on an equal basis.”

Not only does the program allow veterans to stay in their homes with their families, but it is also a money saver for taxpayers. The VA spends an average of $332,000 per veteran per year in VA nursing homes, an average of $88,000 per veteran per year in community nursing homes, and about $45,000 a year in per diem payments to veterans in State Veterans Homes. 

Through the Family Caregivers Program, the VA cost per veteran per year is about $36,000. This includes the stipend, which averages between $600 and $2,250 a month, based on the level of care and the geographic location, and services provided to the caregiver.