New VA bill established to assist post-9/11 veteran caregivers could fall short

On 5 May 2010 President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, Public Law 111-163. The bill, first of its kind, intends to provide direct assistance to veteran families. However, recent press releases indicate that the bill is in distress. Many articles are quick to fault the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) after the organization missed the 31 January 2011 deadline to start carrying out provisions of the bill, and before that, the 1 November 2010 implementation plan milestone. The VA signed the long-awaited implementation plan on Wednesday 9 February, but the contents of that bill may be falling short of its mark. For instance, only about 10 percent of the intended post-9/11 caregiver population (est. 850) are said to be eligible for assistance.

New benefits – restricted to caregivers of the critically wounded and seriously ill of the post-9/11 veterans – outlined by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, include: monthly stipend (based on the average home healthcare costs in the veterans hometown), health care coverage, travel expenses (including lodging and per diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care), respite care, and mental health services/counseling.

Among those supporting the bill are the following political figures:

  • Sen. Daniel Akaka (HI)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
  • Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Chairwoman, Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee
  • Rep. Jeff Miller (FL), Chairman, House Committee on Veteran Affairs

While some of the enhancements are currently available, many will require an issuance of regulations, whereas others will remain unavailable. To date, the VA has given no timeline as to when the services will be available to caregivers. However, under the law, the VA must report to Congress within 2 years about the possibilities of providing the enhanced benefits to all post-9/11 caregivers.

The Warrior Gateway can assist those that are affected by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 by providing veteran caregivers a place to find assistance services located in their hometown. The free-of-charge Warrior Gateway directory currently has over 100 caregiver assistance organizations available for veterans of all eras.

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