NewsBytes September 23, 2022    
In this issue:
VA Extends Caregiver Benefits
House Passes Five Veteran’s Bills
Post-9/11 Veterans Higher than Expected Death Rates
50 Years Beyond: The Vietnam Veteran Experience 

VA Extends Caregiver Benefits
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will extend caregiver benefits until October 1, 2025. This extension will ensure that thousands of families will continue to receive stipends for the next three years.

The caregiver program provides health care and benefits, including a stipend, to individuals who devote their time providing oversight of veterans who need assistance and supervision and cannot live independently. The stipends vary based on location, but range from approximately $1,800 to $3,000 a month, depending on the level of care required. About 33,000 veterans who are currently enrolled in the program. Nearly 20,000 of those are Post-9/11 veterans who applied to the program before October 2020 (“Legacy Families”). Military Times reports that a VA internal review showed as many as 90 percent of the legacy families who are receiving VA caregiver benefits would have been kicked out of the program as a result of the earlier eligibility changes.

The FRA expressed concern that the VA family caregiver program’s expansion was not being properly implemented in its testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans affairs Committees in March.  Despite objections from FRA and other VSO organizations, the VA’s revised regulation tightened the eligibility criteria substantially beyond what is required by law. As the VA’s regulation substantially changes the program’s eligibility criteria, the process to determine a veteran’s “need” for assistance, and the entire methodology and basis for the stipend paid to the caregiver. FRA is concerned that many caregivers will be unable to obtain assistance which was the intent of the 2018 Act.  

House Passes Five Veteran’s Bills
The House recently passed five veterans bills intended to improve the Veterans Benefit Administration and to ensure that disabled veterans, student veterans and their families and survivors get their earned benefits quickly. This includes the Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, which will help families who are grappling with skyrocketing inflation. 

The “VA Home Loan Benefit Act” that also passed the House will ease the homebuying process for veterans by letting them use the same modern purchasing tools that non-veteran homebuyers already use. This will help them get into their new homes faster. 
The following bills were passed out of the House:
• H.R.7735: Improving Access to the VA Home Loan Benefit Act, (Rep. Bost)
• H.R.7939: The Student Veteran Emergency Relief Act, (Rep. Levin)
• H.R.7846: Veterans’ Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act of 2022 (Reps. Luria and Nehls)
• H.R.5916: Wounded Warrior Access Act, as amended (Rep. Aguilar); and
• H.R. 8260: Faster Payments to Veterans Survivors’ Act (Rep. Pappas). 
These bills now go to the Senate for further consideration.

Medical Journal: Post-9/11 Veterans have Higher than Expected Death Rates
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently published a report that found that Post-9/11 veterans are dying at a higher rate than non-veterans. The study attributed almost 34 percent of Post 9/11 veteran’s deaths to complications from traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

The JAMA study found that among Post 9/11 veterans, 17.5 percent had mild TBI and three percent had a moderate to severe TBI. There were 43,190 veteran deaths with TBI and that 3,858 more veterans dies compared to the general population after adjusting for veteran population and non-veteran population. Deaths of veterans were predominately by suicide according to the report .    

50 Years Beyond: The Vietnam Veteran Experience 
On September 27 and 28, The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) Headquarters located in Alexandria, Virginia, will play host to a select group of Virginia-based Vietnam War Veterans who have been selected to be part the Virginia War Memorial’s exhibit entitled, “50 Years Beyond: The Vietnam Veteran Experience.” 

While at FRA HQ, each veteran will have a professional photo session taken and be interviewed about their experiences associated with the Vietnam Veteran War. Eventually, both components will become part of the exhibit, which opens on Jan. 27, 2023, at the Virginia War Memorial  located in Richmond, Virginia. 

The Virginia War Memorial is collaborating with award-winning photographer and U.S. Navy veteran Laura Hatcher to take the contemporary photos of the Vietnam veterans selected. Videographer extraordinaire, Pamela Hart Vines will then interview and capture the veterans’ stories on video. 

The FRA HQ is one of four sites throughout Virginia being used to photograph, video and collect the veterans’ stories. The response from Women Virginia Vietnam Veterans has been low. If you know of any who desires to be part of this exhibit, please have them contact the War Memorial by email or call 804-786-2060.

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