Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), the ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, presided over a hearing on the VA’s Caregiver Program.
“As Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee, I take seriously our responsibility to conduct oversight of Veterans Health Administration programs to ensure that they are working as intended: to improve the lives of veterans and their families,” Brownley said.
During the hearing, Brownley inquired about how many veterans are eligible for the program, its cost-effectiveness, how it’s being researched and evaluated, and solutions for the program’s IT data management problems.
Brownley asked how many veterans are eligible for the program, given the discrepancy between the VA’s and RAND’s numbers.
She raised concerns throughout the hearing on the lack of research into the efficacy of programs that address caregiver issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD – research that would be helpful to inform the Subcommittee on a way forward with decisions of expansion as well as cost-benefit analysis concerns.
Brownley, who is a member of the newly-formed ‘Hidden Heroes Congressional Caucus for Military and Veteran Caregivers’, called for a second hearing on the caregiver program to hear from Veterans Service Organizations about issues that they have raised about the existing program and the possibility of expanding the program to cover pre-9/11 veterans.
“In my view, the Subcommittee should also explore the feasibility and costs associated with expanding the Caregiver Program to family caregivers of pre-9/11 veterans,” said Brownley. “Given the scope of the program, and the magnitude of the issue, I would ask that a follow-up hearing be held so that we may address other concerns that have been raised by the Veteran Service Organizations and other important stakeholders.”
In 2010, Congress passed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which established the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Family Caregiver Program.
Approximately 5.5 million spouses, parents, children, and other loved ones serve as volunteer caregivers to America’s wounded veterans. They shoulder an enormous responsibility – bathing, feeding, and dressing, managing medication and injections, arranging for rehabilitation – all while many are raising a family.
Military caregivers are often the only knowledgeable and trusted individuals available 24 hours a day to care for those suffering from the multiple visible and invisible wounds. Yet, despite the vital role they play in the recovery of those who have protected our nation’s freedom and security, their needs have remained largely overlooked.
A recent RAND study commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation estimates that the services caregivers provide save our nation $13.6 billion annually, yet they too often pay a heavy price: suffering physical and emotional stress and illnesses; difficulty maintaining employment; financial, legal, and family strains; and isolation.