States Stop the Stop on Stipends

Veterans are provided with certain benefits from the country, as recognition for their time in service.  In 2000, the National Family Caregiver Support Program was created to provide, “grants to State and Territories… to fund a range of supports that assist family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible.”  Though this program was initially directed towards, “adult family members of other [adult] informal caregivers… providing care to individual 60 years of age and older; adult family members or other [adult] informal caregivers… providing care to individuals of any age with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders; grandparents and other relatives (not parents) 55 years of age and older providing care to children under the age of 18; and grandparents and other relatives (not parent) 55 years of age and older providing care to adults… with disabilities,” given how much they have given to this country, in 2010, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act , Public Law No. 111-163, was enacted nationally.  Public Law No.111-163 allows those who support veterans to apply for these benefits.  (This bill was sponsored by Sen. Akaka (D-HI) and cosponsored in a non-partisan way.)

Because this program relies on the state to determine who should be granted these benefits and how much this grant should be, based on the cost of living and the cost of medical care in the state, it is the states’ responsibility to keep the program running.  Recently, the Oregon VA decided to stop giving benefits to the caregivers of some veterans; 207 have been removed from the program, while 57 veterans are still participating.  However, on April 10, 2017, The Oregonian reported, “Portland VA to temporarily stop removing vets from caregiver program”.  Six members of Congressmen, all of whom happen to be Democrats, Rep. Kurt Schrader, Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Jeff Markley, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Rep. Peter DeFazio, put a stop to the stop.  (Though he did not participate in the halt of the stop, Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon says he supports it.)

Though not yet enacted, the stop that some Oregon congressmen are trying to make is not unique to the state.  As of February 2016, thousands of veterans in Washington and Idaho had already been removed from the program.  However, as the title of these articles state, “Veterans’ caregivers lose VA stipends, struggle to understand why.”  The government says that the stipends given through this program were never meant to be permanent.  However, I can find no information in the text of the law that either confirms or negates this.  For many veterans with certain disabilities, such as some with TBI or PTSD, employment is simply not a possibility.  In fact, these articles profile specific veterans, with TBI and PTSD, for whom full recovery has not yet, and may never be, a medically-reasonable possibility.

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