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Chairman Roe: The Selfless Devotion That it Takes to be a Caregiver Knows No Age or Era

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Washington, February 6, 2018 | Tiffany Haverly (202-225-3527) | comments
Today, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), held an oversight hearing to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs' Family Caregiver Program.

Below are Chairman Roe's opening remarks from the hearing: 

Opening Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Welcome and thank you all for joining us for today’s Full Committee hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA’s) Family Caregiver Program.

The Family Caregiver Program was created by Congress in 2010 to support severely wounded post-9/11 veterans and their caregivers.

Approximately 4,000 caregivers were expected to be approved for the Program at that time.

VA ended 2017 with more than 22,000 approved caregivers.

That is a 550% increase over what was expected.

Needless to say, significantly higher-than-expected demand for the Program has created set-backs.

There has been miscommunication, confusion, and frustration from veterans, caregivers, and VA employees alike concerning practically every aspect of this Program - from eligibility determinations to clinical appeals to revocations and more.

To the Department’s credit, they are well-aware of those issues and have taken steps in the last year to address them.

I am particularly glad that, following a six-year wait, a formal directive was published last June containing guidance on how the Program should be administered.

I applaud the Secretary and Ms. Kabat, the National Caregiver Program lead, for the actions they have taken and I am fully supportive of their ongoing efforts - to include the Request for Information that was issued in early January to solicit public feedback on how to modify the Program to better serve veterans and their caregivers.

That said, serious issues still remain to be resolved - including, as seems to be the case for every VA program, long-standing and critically important IT issues.

I support expanding the Family Caregiver Program to pre-9/11 veterans but I believe that before doing so we must ensure the Program is working as intended.

I have had the opportunity over the years to get to know caregivers who have provided life-saving care on a daily basis to the veterans in their lives. And I have been a caregiver for my elderly parent in the past so I have some understanding of what this involves.

My heart goes out to them for the time, health, money, and personal aspirations that they have sacrificed to be there for their loved ones.

The selfless devotion that it takes to be a caregiver knows no age or era and what caregivers of post-9/11 veterans have been experiencing over the last seventeen years is old hat to what caregivers of pre-9/11 veterans have been experiencing for, in some cases, decades.

I am a Vietnam-era veteran myself and am well-aware that I and my fellow brothers and sisters in arms are not getting any younger.

Neither are our caregivers.

However, I share this Administration’s concern that the significant expansion of the Family Caregiver Program cannot be discussed or supported without an honest conversation about finding the right balance between clinical appropriateness and cost.

I also share the Obama Administration’s concern that expansion of the Family Caregiver Program under the current budget framework could compromise resources needed to meet VA’s core mission of providing high-quality care to our nation’s veterans.

Those are the very highest stakes and they should give us all pause.

Accordingly, I feel strongly that any legislation to improve and expand the Family Caregiver Program should be developed, proceed through regular order, and passed on its own merits.

Today’s hearing is my commitment to Members and stakeholders that we will have that debate.

No veteran and no caregiver - from any generation - is well-served by having access in name only to a Program that has the deficits this one does and is as ill-prepared as this one is to accept a sudden influx of new beneficiaries with complex, widely-different caregiving needs from those veterans the Program is currently serving. 

I hope that today’s hearing will shed light on the way-ahead and I hope that those of is in this room will be able to work together to make sure that this Program is working well and then, finally, serving all.

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