Bill Introduced For Veterans And Their Caregivers! Elizabeth Dole Act
Disabled and elderly U.S. military veterans and their caregivers would receive more support and services under a bill recently introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
The proposed legislation would improve in-home care and community-based services and expand services to veterans who live in rural and remote communities where health care options are limited.
The Elizabeth Dole Home and Community-based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act (also called, “The Elizabeth Dole Act”) was introduced on March 17 in the U.S. Senate by Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; Jon Tester, D-Montana; and Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire.
“The Elizabeth Dole Act recognizes the critical work of caregivers and helps expand home and community-based services for our nation’s veterans,” Sen. Hassan, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a news release about the bill. “I urge my colleagues to pass our bipartisan bill and honor the promise we made for veterans to be there for them.”
U.S. Reps. Jack Bergman, R-Michigan, and Julie Brownley, D-California., introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Over half of all veterans that use the VA services are over the age of 65 and at risk of going into a nursing home or institutional care, according to Congresswoman Julia Brownley.
“The research is clear: providing health services and assistance in home settings improves health outcomes and delays, if not prevents, nursing home placement for people with disabilities and the elderly,” Brownley said in a statement about the bill. ” However, VA’s current programs need to be improved and expanded to ensure that all veterans have access to these types of services.”
Brownley said the focus of the bill is to allow veterans to age in place with dignity in their own homes for as long as possible.
Specifically, the Elizabeth Dole Act would:
- Expand access to home and community-based services for veterans living in U.S. territories and to Native veterans enrolled in Indian Health Service or Tribal Health Programs.
- Raise the cap on how much the VA can pay for the cost of home care from 65 percent of the cost of nursing home care to 100 percent.
- Coordinate expanded VA home care programs with other VA programs, like the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, and other federal programs, like Medicare’s PACE program.
- Review existing service gaps in geriatric and extended care at the VA.
- Establish a pilot project to address home health aide shortages.
- Provide respite care to caregivers of veterans enrolled in-home care programs.
- Establish a “one-stop-shop” website to centralize information for families and veterans on programs available.
- Require VA to provide a coordinated handoff for veterans and caregivers ineligible for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers into any other home care program for which they may be eligible.
Caregiver Programs Currently Offered by the VA
Currently, the VA has two programs for veterans and their caregivers:
1. Program for Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC)
This program allows a family member or non-family member who meets the VA’s criteria to become a caregiver for an eligible veteran. Caregivers must complete caregiver education and training. PCAFC provides numerous services and resources to family caregivers including a monthly financial stipend, access to health care insurance through the VA, and mental health counseling.
The first phase of the PCAFC program was for veterans who were seriously injured or their injuries worsened in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. In 2018, however, the program was expanded to include veterans who served between May 7, 1975, and September 11, 2001. The second phase of the program goes into effect on October 1, 2022, and will include veterans of all eras.
2. Program for General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS)
The PGCSS provides educational programs, skills training, peer support mentoring, and referrals to available resources and support groups for general caregivers of veterans of all eras. General caregivers do not need to be a relative or live with the veteran.
In order for a caregiver to participate in PGCSS, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care and be receiving care from a caregiver.
Veteran Service Groups Support Bill
Several veterans’ organizations and programs that serve veterans are on board with the bipartisan bill.
Charles Brown, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America, says the plan for “person-centered care” would allow more veterans with significant disabilities, like spinal cord injuries and disorders, to remain independent in their homes, “instead of being forced into long-term care facilities.”
According to Joy Ilem, national legislative director for the Disabled American Veterans organization, the number of veterans needing long-term care is expected to increase over the next decade. Therefore, “it is important that VA implement policies now that help veterans age safely at home and remain active participants in their communities.”
The proposed legislation was named after former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-North Carolina, who established The Elizabeth Dole Foundation in 2012 to support caregivers who care for wounded, ill or injured veterans.
One of the foundation’s programs is the Respite Relief for Military and Veteran Caregivers in which professional in-home caregivers provide free, short-term relief to family caregivers of veterans.
Sen. Moran, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said The Elizabeth Dole Act “exemplifies the former Senator’s passion for finding lasting solutions for veterans in need of long-term care and their caregivers.”