Good morning. The Subcommittee will come to order.
Four months ago today, this Subcommittee held our first hearing of the year to discuss why the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had failed to implement the caregiver assistance program as required by Public Law 111-163.
At that hearing, it was clear to me that VA must go back and address serious deficiencies with the Department's initial implementation plan, particularly the strict eligibility requirements, and get this important program up and running.
Today, we meet again to determine the progress the Department has made in the intervening months to adjust its implementation plan and do right by our veterans and their caregivers who have already given so much.
In response to the concerns of Members, advocates and stakeholders, VA changed its eligibility requirements and expedited the implementation of caregiver benefits by publishing an Interim Final Rule (IFR) on May 5, 2011. The IFR allowed the Department to accelerate the Federal rulemaking process by immediately implementing the program prior to the consideration of public comments and issuing a final rule.
As the daughter of a full-time caregiver, I understand the profound impact injury can have not only on the injured, but also on his or her loved ones.
Time is of the essence for these families - many of whom have sacrificed their personal, professional, and financial security in order to take on full-time caregiving responsibilities for their veteran family member. We owe it these men and women to get it right and we will not rest until we do.
Today, we will hear from Debbie Schulz, a fulltime caregiver for her son Steven who was injured in Iraq in 2005. She will speak to her experience applying for and obtaining services from the VA.
We will assess the actions VA has taken to date to meet the intent of the law and the changes that need to be considered prior to issuing the final rule.
Thank you all for being with us this morning. I am very much looking forward to our discussion.
I now yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Michaud for any opening statement he may have.