Holland Sentinel: Peters introduces bill to bolster VA caregiver efforts
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, introduced legislation in the Senate on Tuesday, July 23, that bolsters the Department of Veterans Affairs’ caregiver program.
The Transparency and Effective Accountability Measures for Veteran Caregivers Act would add new measures designed to improve the caregivers program.
The program provides a monthly stipend for individuals to assist veterans who are wounded during service. The caretakers, often family members of the veterans, rely on the stipends which range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of disabilities.
The TEAM Act (Senate bill 2216) includes provisions to ensure caregivers for a veteran are included in a veteran’s medical records as a method to strengthen communication between clinical staff and veterans. This would place the caregivers in a similar classification to doctors and physicians that veterans may meet with.
Secondly, decisions to terminate services between a caregiver and a veteran would require a newly established minimum standard of information. In May 2018, NPR reported the VA was cutting caregivers out of the program without providing reasoning, even though many of the veterans still relied on the stipend.
The TEAM Act would also set a 90-day period of maintaining benefits after a termination letter is issued for veterans who are no longer clinically eligible for the program.
Currently, the caregiver program issues a termination letter after a veteran is deemed to be able to have “increased independence.” There isn’t a set guideline or schedule for the stipend and or services being cut off.
In 2018, the the VA Inspector General issued a report that found management improvements were needed for the caregivers program. Peters believes the TEAM Act can improve the lives of caregivers and the veterans they care for.
“Veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for our country, and we must ensure they have the quality care and support they deserve,” Peters said, in a press release.
“I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to ensure caregivers are treated fairly and make sure the VA is held accountable.”
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, co-sponsored the legislation.
By: Arpan Lobo
Source: Holland Sentinel
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