In case you missed it, the Union Leader highlighted U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan’s bipartisan efforts to make important changes to the VA Caregivers Program after hearing concerns about the program from Granite Staters, including Eric and Jennifer McNail of Littleton. Eric and Jennifer spoke to the Union Leader about being kicked out of the program after eligibility requirements were narrowed by the previous administration, as well as their efforts to appeal that decision.
As reported by the Union Leader, Senator Hassan is urging the Biden administration to reverse the eligibility requirements made by the previous administration, and is working across the aisle to ensure that Eric, Jennifer, and thousands of other veterans and their families who have been kicked out of the VA Caregivers Program have the resources that they need to appeal their denied application.
See below for coverage highlights:
By Kevin Landrigan
Iraq War veteran Eric McNail and his wife, Jennifer, of Littleton, have been battling a federal bureaucracy that’s hurt thousands, forcing them to appeal for services threatened to be taken away through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Caregivers Program.
A member of the 101st Airborne Division in the vanguard of the Iraq invasion, Eric returned home needing regular assistance with daily activities, and since 2003 Jennifer has been his constant caregiver.
[…] The VA Caregivers Program provides help to veterans and their caregivers, who are often family members, including caregiver education and training, mental health counseling, respite care and a monthly stipend.
Last October, the McNails learned the VA was bouncing them from the program, under new eligibility requirements established during the Trump administration.
“It is a very sad situation and to be honest with you, a very angering situation as well,” Eric McNail said during a telephone interview Monday.
His wife has spoken with peers who care for veterans with amputations who also have been cut from the program.
[…] Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., is leading a bipartisan campaign to urge the Biden administration to reverse eligibility cuts while committing more resources to cope with an expected flood of these appeals.
“We owe it to veterans to ensure that they receive the care that they have earned and deserve after they return from their service,” Hassan said in a statement.
[…] Coincidentally, all these reviews and denials happened after the VA “expanded” the program to make veterans who had served prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks eligible.
What followed were more narrow eligibility criteria that applied not only to new applicants, but to families like the McNails who were already in the program.
An appeals court last year granted veterans and caregivers the right to appeal a denial.
Hassan said many veterans aren’t sure how the process works, and federal officials are telling families not to appeal unless their circumstances have changed.
Hassan and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., co-sponsored a letter to VA Secretary Dennis McDonough that also had the backing of Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
[…] The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee found the VA had denied 88% of applications from October 2020 to August 2021.
[…] Jennifer McNail says the latest review of her husband’s eligibility didn’t receive serious consideration.
[…] Hassan said the Biden administration needs to ensure there are enough caregiver support coordinators in the VA to help these families navigate through the appeal process.
[…] Jennifer McNail is encouraged that the issue is getting the attention of senators across the country who are being told these cuts didn’t occur because the program lacks enough money.
“I feel if there is an uprising, the more likely we can turn this around,” she said. “They shouldn’t take everything away from people who really need this. They are downgrading the whole program.”