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Opening Statement of Hon. Michael H. Michaud, Ranking Democratic Member, Subcommittee on Health

Thank you, Madam Chair. 

I would like to thank you for holding today’s hearing on Public Law 111-163, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010.  Today’s hearing follows up on a March 11, 2011, Subcommittee on Health hearing on this very same issue where concerns were raised regarding the delays in the rollout of the implementation plan, the narrowing of criteria for eligibility of these benefits, and next steps.

At the beginning of July, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ issued its very first payments to family caregivers of veterans.  These family caregivers were the first to complete their caregiver training under the program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, and VA will send out more than $430,000 in stipend payments to nearly 200 recipients this month alone.

I am pleased that veterans and caregivers are finally beginning to receive some of the services required by P.L. 111-163, and I am pleased that the criteria for eligibility of these benefits have been expanded to be more in line with the original intent of Congress.  However, I would like to hear more from our witnesses today about:

  • How the plan is being implemented in the field;
  • What issues remain;
  • What oversight is being conducted from Central Office; and
  • How we can ensure that this program is successfully implemented so that veterans and their caregivers receive these critical benefits without further delay.

The testimony we received contained many concerns with the interim final rule and I would like to hear more from VA on incorporating some of these suggestions in the final rule. 

Madam Chair, thank you again for holding this hearing, the second in a series of hearings to assist in our oversight of the implementation of P.L. 111-164.  As we continue to monitor this issue, we will work to actively engage VA as we move forward.

I yield back.