Last month, Secretary Shulkin and the VA announced its decision to launch an internal review of its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC). The review includes a temporary halt of caregiver revocations from the program, broad evaluations of program consistency and standardization of communications with veterans and military caregivers.
The decision is an acknowledgement that the VA cares about the success of this program, and is committed to the difficult task of improvement. In the last few weeks, the VA has begun to take appropriate and swift actions to holistically engage the military caregiver community, a key step to instituting necessary changes. In addition, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and many Foundation partners have been hard at work to provide constructive input on an effective path forward.
Here’s a quick snapshot of recent progress toward improving the VA Caregiver Program, from our perspective:
EDF hosted an informative and progress-oriented listening session for a dozen military caregivers with Meg Kabat, the National Director of the VA Caregiver Program; followed by two high-level discussions with the VA among the Foundation’s leadership, top VSO and MSO representatives, as well as civilian-based caregiver non-profits to gather additional insight and expertise on the state of the program.
- On April 27, The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC) Subcommittee on Health conducted a roundtable discussion to determine how The VA can improve the Caregiver Program after learning of specific weaknesses and shortfalls. The Committee invited VA decision-makers, key stakeholders and industry experts – including representatives from EDF, many of our partner organizations, and congressional leadership and staffers. Participants discussed both the Caregiver Program’s effectiveness and challenges in meeting the clinical needs of veterans and their military caregivers.
- The Foundation also convened several of its national coalition partners for a roundtable dialogue last week. Together, this group is working together to offer constructive feedback and possible solutions to the VA as a coalition of organizations with a direct line to military caregivers, informed by the experiences of caregivers themselves. As an outcome of the meeting, we’ve begun to draft key recommendations for improving caregiver support into a coalition letter that will be sent to Secretary Shulkin for review.
- And finally, Senator Dole and I met with VA Secretary Shulkin last week for a productive conversation about the needs of our military caregivers, specifically focusing on the VA Caregiver Program’s current review and improvement. We offered critical recommendations and observations about the program, addressing the importance of communication, transparency, standardization, caregiver education and validation on the impact of care. We are encouraged by their positive discussion and look forward to sharing additional updates as EDF and the VA explore new ways to partner in improving the lives of our Hidden Heroes.
We promise to keep you informed as we learn more about the VA’s evaluation of the Caregiver Program. In the meantime, please continue to reach out with your suggestions and comments.
Thank you for your continued support.