Delays Common for Caregiver Benefits for Vietnam Vets and their Families

Delays Common for Caregiver Benefits for Vietnam Vets and their Families

Delays Common for Caregiver Benefits for Vietnam Vets and their Families

By Debbie Gregory

A law passed in 2010 limited the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program to post-9/11 veterans. But on June 6th, President Trump signed the VA Mission Act which eliminates the 9/11 limitation in stages. Eventually, the program will extend the benefit to veterans of all eras.

The first phase of the expansion is supposed to go to the caregivers of veterans who suffered severe, service-connected wounds or injuries before May 1975, when the Vietnam War ended for the U.S.

VA secretary Robert Wilkie knows first-hand what these families go through.

When Wilkie was just seven years old, his father, retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Leon Wilkie Sr. was severely wounded in Vietnam. The senior Wilkie was awarded three Purple Hearts, four Bronze Stars (one with a “V” device for valor in combat), four Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the senior Parachutist Badge and the Ranger tab.

“When he came home after a year in military hospitals, he weighed less than half of what he did when he left us,” Said Secretary Wilkie. “I watched his agonizing recovery, and that experience was on my mind when I was asked to come to the VA.”

But even having Wilkie championing the cause doesn’t alleviate the problems the system is fraught with.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, weighed in by saying, “There has been miscommunication, confusion, and frustration from veterans, caregivers, and VA employees alike concerning practically every aspect of this program — from eligibility determinations to clinical appeals to revocations and more.”

The bill, which passed in May, had strong support in Congress, passing with a vote of 345-70 in the House, and 92-5 in the Senate. But expanding the program will be costly, and no one in government is exactly sure how to pay for it.

So while it is good news that the expansion will include the previously excluded veterans who were disabled prior to May 1975, the bad news is that it’s anticipated the first phase of the expansion will take two years.