Subscribe
An undated photo of the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. The VA will open eligibility for its Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program to all veterans starting Oct. 1. Initially, the program was established in 2010 to provide support, financial stipends, other resources, and education for only caregivers of veterans seriously injured or whose injuries worsened when they were in the military on or before Sept. 11, 2001. 

An undated photo of the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. The VA will open eligibility for its Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program to all veterans starting Oct. 1. Initially, the program was established in 2010 to provide support, financial stipends, other resources, and education for only caregivers of veterans seriously injured or whose injuries worsened when they were in the military on or before Sept. 11, 2001.  (Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs will open eligibility for one of its caregiver programs to veterans starting Saturday.

The Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program is one of two VA caregiver support programs. Initially, the program was established in 2010 to provide support, financial stipends, other resources, and education for only caregivers of veterans seriously injured or whose injuries worsened when they were in the military on or before Sept. 11, 2001.

The VA expanded the program in October 2020 to caregivers of veterans who were in the military on or before May 7, 1975.

Starting Saturday, veterans and their caregivers can apply for the program.

The program has an estimated 43,000 caregivers and the VA anticipates adding 16,000 caregivers to the program for fiscal 2023, which begins Saturday.

Colleen Richardson, executive director of VA's Caregiver Support Program, said the VA anticipates receiving 120,000 applications in the next two fiscal years. She said the agency authorized hiring an additional 360 staff members to prepare for the expected application volume. So far, Richardson said the VA has hired more than 300 new employees for the program.

"They are trained, and they are ready," she said.

Rachael Burden, acting director of Veterans Health Administration's media relations, said the VA anticipates its Caregiver Support Program will allocate approximately $152 million of its estimated $1.85 billion budget for costs associated with the program expansion.

However, the revised eligibility meant participants of the program before October 2020 — known as legacy participants — were being reevaluated to determine whether they met the new criteria. This has led many veterans to be dropped from the program or denied access. Last March, the VA announced it was reexamining its eligibility criteria and the agency would not remove or decrease the support of participants in the program.

Still, some veterans and caregivers said they received letters stating they were being dropped from the program. In June, the VA said it was pausing its annual caregiver reassessment that determines whether a veteran and caregiver are still eligible to stay in the Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program.

The VA extended eligibility to veterans or service members who participated in the program as of Sept. 30, 2020, or those who applied for the program before and were accepted on or after Oct. 1, 2020.

The VA published an interim rule on Sept. 15 that extends eligibility to the program to the legacy participants and applicants and their caregivers by three years as the agency continues to reexamine the program and develop criteria.

"That pause will still be in effect for anybody who comes into this program after Oct. 1," Richardson said. "You will not be discharged from the program until we've really stepped back and done the entire comprehensive review of figuring out what, if any, changes need to be made to the program as we move forward."

Veterans and caregivers can learn more about the program at the VA Caregiver Support Program website: https://www.caregiver.va.gov/support/support_benefits.asp

author picture
Sara Samora is a Marine Corps veteran and the veterans reporter for Stars and Stripes. A native Texan, she previously worked at the Houston Business Journal and the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. She also serves on the boards of Military Veterans in Journalism and the Houston Association of Hispanic Media Professionals.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up