March 11, 2011

Buerkle on Caregivers: “We will make this our Mission”

For more information, contact: Jon Clark (202) 225-3527

WASHINGTON, DC –Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25), held an oversight hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) implementation plan of the caregiver assistance law.

“I recognize that no matter how good a health care system is, it can only go so far,” commented Chairwoman Buerkle.  “We can – and should – provide the highest quality care by the highest quality physicians and therapists in the highest quality facilities. But nothing can equal the support provided by a loving and loyal family member.” 

Last year, Congress passed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act (Public Law 111-163) which established comprehensive support services for caregivers of veterans.  It also provided a stipend and health care benefits for family caregivers of seriously injured Post- 9/11 veterans.

The law mandated that the Obama Administration submit an implementation plan to Congress by November 1, 2010 and fully implement this important program by January 30, 2011.  Not only did Congress receive the implementation plan three months late, on February 9, 2011, but it was immediately met with consternation by lawmakers and veterans’ advocates.

“It is clear to me that VA must go back to the drawing board and address the serious deficiencies in the plan raised at today’s hearing, including the strict eligibility criteria,” continued Buerkle.  “The significant delay in implementation creates an increased hardship for the veterans and caregivers meant to be helped by the law.  VA must take this opportunity to adjust its implementation plan and do right by our caregivers who have already given so much.  We will make this our mission.”