Today, Congressman Andy Biggs led a bipartisan group of Members of Congress in introducing the TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act. This legislation takes three steps to increase efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) family caregivers program: First, it will formally recognize all caregivers of veterans by identifying them in the health records of the veteran; Second, it will require the VA to include specific information when notifying veterans and caregivers regarding any clinical determinations made relating to the downgrade or termination of family caregivers benefits; Third, it will extend the family caregivers program benefits for 90 days when a veteran is no longer clinically eligible for the program, with exclusions to protect against fraud and abuse.
The legislation is endorsed by Disabled American Veterans, Elizabeth Dole Foundation, and Paralyzed Veterans of America. Original cosponsors of the bill are Representatives Tulsi Gabbard, Jim Banks, Susie Lee, Amata Coleman Radewagen, Greg Stanton, Paul Gosar, Raul Grijalva, Debbie Lesko, Doug Lamborn, Matt Gaetz, and David McKinley.
"Family caregivers assume enormous responsibilities by caring for our wounded veterans, including many who are among our most vulnerable population. Unfortunately, they frequently face unnecessary bureaucracy that only makes their efforts more difficult. This legislation is a small step in the right direction to streamline the VA's family caregiver program. I look forward to working with my colleagues, veteran advocates, and the administration to pass this bill and ensure our veterans and their caregivers get the service that they deserve." -- Congressman Andy Biggs (AZ-05)
"Thousands of veterans receive lifesaving care from family caregivers. These veteran families deserve to have every resource they need to lead dignified and independent lives. For too long, family caregivers have been arbitrarily cut from the Family Caregiver Program with little to no explanation. This is inexcusable; more than anyone else, these families need transparency. This bill requires VA to provide specific information when downgrading or terminating family caregiver benefits. This will lead to families being able to appeal more easily and promote accountability for the program management. Especially during a public health crisis, veterans and their families need to be certain that they can receive the health benefits that they need, and quite frankly, they earned." -- Congresswoman Susie Lee (NV-03)
"Disabled veterans have made unimaginable, enormous sacrifices to their country, and their family caregivers selflessly share in that sacrifice. Congress owes veterans and veteran caregivers the best that we can offer. This bill is a step towards providing veteran caregivers with the quality of service and access to health records that they deserve." -- Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03)
"It is my great honor to represent the congressional district with the largest number of veterans in the nation. Veterans do not want a hand-out or more taxpayer money thrown at the VA. They want and deserve the flexibility to utilize their benefits in a way that is convenient for them and their families. The TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act will empower veterans and their loved ones by providing them the information and access they need to make the best decisions for their families. I am glad to be an original cosponsor of this important legislation given the positive impact it will have on so many of our veterans and their caregivers." -- Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05)
"Family caregivers are essential to the well-being of our military heroes and should never be encumbered by senseless bureaucratic overreach. I'm proud to co-sponsor Congressman Andy Biggs's TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act, which removes government red tape to ensure our veterans receive the care and treatment they deserve without the unnecessary obstacle of government bureaucracy." -- Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01)
"Caregivers are an important part of veterans' care teams. It is important that we acknowledge these caregivers and give them access to information that is vital to veterans' care. I am proud to join Congressman Biggs as an original cosponsor of this legislation to ensure our veterans receive the best care." -- Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (AZ-08)
"Caregivers assume enormous responsibilities by caring for our wounded veterans, unfortunately, bureaucratic hurdles veterans and caregivers must go through are cumbersome and inefficient. I'm proud to cosponsor this bill which will increase efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the Department of Veterans Affairs' family caregivers program." -- Congressman Paul Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04)
"Veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and we must ensure they receive the support they rightfully deserve. The TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act will provide exactly that. It will establish a stronger line of communication between our veterans' caregivers and the Department of Veteran Affairs. We must provide the VA and caregivers with these much-needed tools so our veterans can receive good quality care." -- Congressman David McKinley (WV-01)
"Three years ago, I stood in front of a Phoenix VA staff member; frustrated, angry, and helpless to get a much-needed copy of an MRI. At the time, I'd been a caregiver for my 100%-disabled Veteran son for two years. I was part of the VA's Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, but I could not be found anywhere in my son's records.
Military caregivers across the country were having the same problem. Our Veteran's needed help, but VA staff had no way to know who we were. In addition, caregivers were being dropped from the VA's caregiver program with little warning or explanation. Many of us brought our concerns to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, who not only listened but turned these problems into a key initiative called the TEAM Act.
I wholeheartedly commend Congressman Biggs for listening too. His decision to bring the TEAM Act to the United States Congress shows his commitment to our Veterans and those who care for them.
The simple act of placing the name of a military caregiver in a Veteran's record is a vital step in listening to and supporting our Veterans. And, treating these same caregivers with the dignity and respect they deserve when they no longer qualify for the VA's Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, is just the right thing to do." -- Sharon Grassi, Arizona Dole Caregiver Fellow Alumni
"The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is proud to support Congressman Biggs and the introduction of the TEAM Act in the House of Representatives. This bill will provide huge benefits to America's military caregivers, which include official designation in their veterans' records and expanded benefits to those who have been removed from the program. We are pleased to see these issues and many others at the forefront of this bill and encourage others to join us in supporting this critical legislation." -- Steve Schwab, CEO, Elizabeth Dole Foundation
"In far too many instances, policies and procedures of the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers has resulted in the untimely disruption or termination of needed benefits for our nation's veterans and their caregivers. DAV has long advocated for improvements to this program, and is proud to support the TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act in order to provide clear standards of communicating VA's decisions, provide smoother transitions along the program's continuum of care for beneficiaries, and fully incorporate family caregivers within the veteran's care team. We are grateful to the bill's cosponsors for their commitment to disabled veterans and to the nation's unsung heroes, their family caregivers." -- Joy Ilem, National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans
"Paralyzed Veterans of America applauds the introduction of the "Transparency and Effective Accountability Measures for Veteran Caregivers Act'' or the ""TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act.'' For far too long, VA has operated the family caregiver program in a manner that has led to veterans being inappropriately dropped from the program without any recourse. We believe this legislation is a step in the right direction, and will ensure veterans are afforded their due process rights. We appreciate the leadership of Rep. Biggs in advocating for these protections for our most significantly disabled veterans." -- Heather Ansley, Paralyzed Veterans of America