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Expansion of caregiver veterans' benefits may come with a price

Since 2011, those who care for certain combat-injured veterans have been eligible to receive a caregiver training, a monthly stipend, stress counseling and access for health insurance. The program currently limits these veterans benefits to those who have been injured since 9/11/2001 who are unable to perform at least one daily living activities, such as getting dressed or preparing meals.

In December, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee approved the Caring for Our Veterans Act (S.Bill 2193) that would expand the program to caregivers of veterans injured as far back as World War II. The Senate's proposed expansion would occur over two phases. Once complete, up to 188,000 veterans would be eligible for caregiver benefits.

However, a plan announced by VA Secretary David Shulkin, and backed chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, proposes to tie the expansion of the caregiver benefits program to a restriction in eligibility for the program. Under the plan backed by Shulkin and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), injured veterans from as far back as World War II would be eligible for caregiver benefits. But eligibility would be based on the claimant's inability to perform three or more daily living activities.

Injured veterans who are currently eligible for caregiver benefits would not lose them under the House plan. However, veteran service organizations have a strong preference for the Senate's plan, but also support the expansion of the program to older veterans. While the House proposal may not be ideal, some service organizations see it is an important first step in expanding the benefits to older generations of veterans who are in need of them.

Source: Daily Press, "Caregiver benefit expansion linked to tightened eligibility for veterans," Tom Philpott, Feb. 26, 2018

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