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KAINE COSPONSORS BIPARTISAN BILL TO IMPROVE VETERANS’ CAREGIVER PROGRAM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) cosponsored the Transparency and Effective Accountability Measures (TEAM) for VeteranCaregivers Act, a bill to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)caregiver program. The legislation was introduced by Senators MarshaBlackburn (R-TN) and Gary Peters (D-MI).“Caregivers play a vital role in the lives of veterans who are injured,disabled, or suffering from other chronic conditions. I’m proud to jointhis bipartisan effort to help ensure that our veterans are receiving thesupport they need after their service to our country and that theircaregivers are also being supported for their important work,” Kaine said.The Transparency and Effective Accountability Measures for (TEAM) VeteranCaregivers Act takes a number of steps to improve the program, including:•    Ensuring all caregivers are included in the veterans’ medicalrecords. Currently, only certain caregivers participating in the CaregiverSupport Program are included in veterans’ medical records. Including allcaregivers in medical records strengthens communication between VA andcaregivers and recognizes them as part of the clinical team.•    Establishing a minimum standard of information in downgradenotification letters. This bill would require VA to provide additionalcontext and explanation leading to downgrade or termination decisions.Caregivers have reported that their decision letters are sometimes missingimportant information that would be necessary to file an appeal.•    Extending benefits for at least 90 days after a termination letter issent for cases where a veteran is deemed “no longer clinically eligible”for the program. Caregivers have reported being dropped within a coupleweeks of receiving a termination letter and have no time to appeal or makenew accommodations. This codifies the VA’s goals of maintaining care.According to recent reports, caregivers and veterans have been arbitrarilydischarged or downgraded from the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for FamilyCaregivers program, with benefits subsequently revoked or reduced. The VAOffice of the Inspector General reported in 2018 that VA failed toadequately manage the caregiver program and recommended improvements andreforms. This bipartisan effort would give caregivers and veterans anopportunity to appeal any downgrade or termination of benefits and ensureall caregivers are recognized as part of the clinical team attending toveterans.The VA provides stipends to support caregivers of veterans. Caregivers caninclude family members or other members of the veteran’s support groupthat regularly help veterans recovering from injuries. To be eligible forthe program, veterans must have sustained or aggravated a serious injuryin the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001 and need personal careservices for supervision and protection to help them with daily livingactivities.