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The national director of the VA Caregiver Program will soon depart, but not before snubbing Veteran Warriors over memes posted by an organization volunteer.

Meg Kabat, national director of the VA Caregiver program, is leaving next month “to pursue private-sector employment opportunities” without an immediate replacement. The announcement came following a significant failure in processing caregiver appeals fairly.

“The National Caregiver Support Program Office is staffed by dedicated and knowledgeable employees who will ensure the efforts Meg led continue without interruption,” Veterans Health Administration Chief of Staff Larry Connell said in a statement. “VA plans to name Meg’s replacement in the near future.”

So, methinks this departure has more to do with continued failures of the Caregiver Program that have yet to be announced.

Behind VA’s Caregiver Iron Curtain

Over the past three years, the VA Caregiver Program purged veterans’ caregivers from the program. In many instances, the decision to remove the caregiver from the program was not based on facts or concrete evidence but instead on agency budgetary constraints to rein in program expenses.

The scheme was exposed last winter during a congressional hearing that also exposed that the agency failed to meet a deadline for a VA Caregiver Program client management system to help agency and congressional officials better monitor the program’s behavior.

Senator Patti Murray (D-WA) grilled agency officials about the problems within this program and the agency’s officials were ill-prepared for the grilling but agreed to stop the bad acts of VA’s Caregiver Program officials.

It was embarrassing. It was also disappointing given what the caregiver program really does.

What The VA Caregiver Program Does (In Theory)

In case you are late to the game, the program provides monetary support to caregivers of disabled veterans seriously wounded in the line of duty related to Post 9/11 service in certain situations.

That is an over-simplification, but you get the gist.

For example, the wife of a combat veteran with a severe traumatic brain injury incurred while in Iraq who was medically discharged might qualify. He might require an adult living facility but for his wife providing care in the home.

In that situation, it is cheaper and generally better for the veteran to receive support in the home versus being moved into an adult living facility or nursing home.

His spouse might qualify for caregiver compensation at the local rate of a home health aide based on the number of hours of care the veteran regularly requires:

  • High Tier: Equates to a maximum of 40 hours of care
    per week.
  • Medium Tier: Equates to a maximum of 25 hours of care
    per week.
  • Low Tier: Equates to a maximum of 10 hours of care
    per week.

VA provides monthly compensation to qualified caregivers to help offset the economic burden of the wife leaving the labor market to care for the veteran. The example VA provides follows:

If an eligible Veteran requires 10 hours of personal care services weekly (Tier 1) and the Caregiver’s hourly wage (including COLA) is $10 per hour, then the monthly stipend would be: (10 hours x $10) x 4.35 = $435.

This is an obvious win.

Taxpayers pay less for the overall care of the veteran and the spouse leaving her career behind gets at least a little compensation. And, the veteran is able to stay home.

Now, is the agency providing fair compensation? Not really, but the money was more than spouses previously received.

‘Graduating’ Veterans

News reports have circulated for the past three years showing VA was cheating the system by “graduating” veterans out of the program resulting in the caregiver no longer being entitled to compensation.

The decision letters would say the veteran’s condition has improved such that the veteran no longer requires in-home care. Now, this might be true for certain conditions, but veterans suffering from severe traumatic brain injury generally never recover, even a little, after a few years, much less fully recover.

RELATED: VA Lowballing TBI Veterans Seeking Benefits

What we as advocates began to see was a medical fraud scheme where medical doctors or psychologists were relied on to write and push absurd medical decision letters that contradict known medical facts about the underlying conditions.

Appeals Rights

However, unlike traditional benefits decisions, caregivers adversely impacted cannot appeal bad decisions to the Board of Veterans Appeals as Health Benefits Appeals. Instead, they could only appeal by filing a Clinical Appeal at the local medical facility that previously rendered the same bad decision.

No appellate oversight or access was allowed. And, many wrongly denied caregivers were wrongly denied revenue resources in an unfair manner.

Meg Kabat = Meme-Slapped

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the growing veteran organization Veteran Warriors was blamed for the Kabat departure. Apparently, the organization’s assertive brand of advocacy pushed Kabat to the breaking point that concluded with a sudden refusal to meet with organization officials.

Internal officials reportedly said memes circulating about her possible departure served as the straw on the camel’s back ending cooperation with the organization. Kabat was done with the weight of so many mounting failures and the obvious pressure from Veteran Warriors.

Two memes, with the second included below (the first meme was in the article’s header above), were allegedly posted by a Veteran Warriors volunteer, swiftly removed, but later cited by the agency as the basis for denying a meeting with the group just prior.

Meme 2 VA Caregiver

Imagine if Disabled American Veterans were denied meetings with VA for all the memes, jokes and comments posted by its volunteers or members?

Below in italics is a copy of the organization’s response about the memes and their disappointment with agency officials for refusing to meet with them.

Since when did VA officials develop such thin skin?

Letter From Veteran Warriors On Meg Kabat Departure

The departure of Ms. Kabat from the VA Central Office and managing the VA’s “Caregiver Program” brings trepidation to those of us “boots on the ground”. After spending over two years trying to engage the leadership of the program (and the VA), one would think advocates would be happy, well, we are not. We are anxious and walking blind through the maze that passes for laws, regulations and bureaucracy run amok.

During a recent Congressional hearing, Senator Patti Murray (D-WA), pushed the VA Secretary to suspend the revocations (removals) and tier reductions, until such time as the Secretary has rectified the problems (all the ones we identified). The Secretary promised that the suspension would take place and that he would “engage external stakeholders” to develop a plan to make the necessary corrections to the program.

Since that hearing, my organization has spent weeks trying to engage VA leadership, to review the culmination of our 2 plus years of work, all of which highlights the rampant dysfunction and dereliction that is exhibited throughout the enterprise.

At one point, VA leadership agreed to a meeting. They claimed to be genuinely interested in the training program we built, solely to educate every employee who works in the program. That effort alone would cure 90% of the problems we have identified. After the meeting had been scheduled, we received a message that it was “paused”.

We later were told that a “meme” posted by a volunteer (without executive approval and immediately removed AND apologized for), one that was very unkind to Ms. Kabat, was the reason our meeting was “paused”. That was a week ago. Since then, our attempts to reengage VA leadership have fallen on deaf ears. Quite literally, we have hit a stonewall.

There are literally tens of thousands of veterans and their families who 1) are eligible for this program, and 2) are being denied access to this program solely based on misconstrued laws and regulations, policies created with the intent to “graduate” veterans (in contradiction to the intent of the law) and personal agendas that have skewed and damaged the very program veterans and their families rely upon.

The use of “circling the wagons” and refusing to actually work with we “external stakeholders” will only continue to hamper the program’s existence and will be detrimental to the MISSION ACT expansion due next year. As we all await word on Ms. Kabat’s replacement, we wish her the best in this next chapter of her life and we send up positive thoughts hoping that her replacement WILL be one who wants to fix this badly broken program.

The Caregiver Red Hearing

Now, this is bad. It is really bad.

Why would VA bureaucrats think it is okay to stiff caregivers? And why is Veteran Warriors being treated differently than officials at The Big Six veteran organizations?

Nonetheless, my preliminary research on this suggests the caregiver benefits fixation is simply a red herring for a lot of veterans, at least in a sense.

I have no doubt the compensation being sought has resulted in financial hardship making this a half-red herring. But, many caregivers are focusing on the wrong benefits.

Here is what I mean.

Many veterans with caregivers have severe residuals from a traumatic brain injury while in the military. Veterans who require in-home caregivers on a regular basis may also be entitled to Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) to the tune of over $8,000.

That is around $4,000 more per month than many families receive when you combine disability compensation payouts with the caregiver payments.

Now, if you are reading this, and you believe your case may fall into this category – where the agency knows you require a caregiver but has failed to evaluate you for a higher level SMC-T – definitely hit me up for more information at my law practice.

I plan to write more about this in the future. But until then, I wanted to link to my consult page above so you would have a source for feedback.

The TBI – Caregiver Cunnundrum

A few years back, we caught VA using unqualified doctors to assess the residuals of TBI of veterans seeking benefits from the agency.

The agency regularly used family doctors or nurses to evaluate the evidence for a TBI resulting in wrongful denials of thousands of veterans. It took an IG investigation to sort out that mess and a scandal we exposed through this blog and at Kare 11 News to beat back the agency.

When you combine that kind of issue with the multi-year Caregiver Program debacle, most of us can imagine the frustration these families must be feeling in securing the compensation they need to provide care for the most severely disabled among us.

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10 Comments

  1. Sounds like caregivers are getting screwed by VA. So, what else is new. Veterans are screwed every day by VA employees!

  2. “[…Leaving without an immediate replacement…So, methinks this departure has more to do with continued failures of the Caregiver Program that have yet to be announced.]”

    Bingo! This is a wiki example of the VA WHack-A-Mole(WHAM) gamepiece (rat) jumping the poop deck of V.A.Titanic *before* exterminators and funnyhatters get their tassels all up in an uproar….a bit the way Baltimore relocated a ball team indeed of night to Now- Indianapolis Colts.

    She’s exiting under the swamp gas radar in exact same way the caregiver program has treated a lot of Vets and their family’s; with indifferent abandonment.

    Good riddance, fuck the VA for not having an immediate replacement and for allowing this winch to screw over Vets for that bottom line.

  3. And the VA wonders why veterans commit suicide, yeah sure they do. Ms Kabot and the VA can go choke on a ham sandwich. Don’t let the VA’s sliding glass doors pinch your ass on the way out, bye Ms Kabot.

    • I repeat like a voice sounding in the wilderness, the only way to approach the corrupt VA administration is to file thousands of individual lawsuits against the offending employees, officials and especially the medical persons, Psychiatrists and Psychologists and seek the removal of their licenses from them. Sue, Sue until their skin is blue.

      • Well Flot, keep on sounding maybe somebody out there who has all the abilities to play the legal route might do so, maybe. I am repetitious (works for other groups out there and bombard weak minds with) and continue to be but I am just one low life, poor, whiner, white dude “wanting more white privilege.” And etc., etc.

        While they play these musical chairs up there some of us, depending on location, can’t get squat done, nothing. Too much nepotism, laws in their favor, too much corruption from here to DC and beyond. Too many connections to the special interest clowns, etc. Hard to get anything done when families, mafias, cliques, foreigners, affiliates have their own working in every office of power or position out there. When lawyers refuse like other professionals do … refuse to battle their own, “professional courtesies,” to put some truth in our files, omit here and there to protect their ‘team-mates,’ can conjure up paper-work or their witnesses…its a lost cause and why little is to change in the VA or medical community or courts.

        Who is going to take on once cops (who we are today to fear) who are now lawyers, kin to corrupt judges, family in the VA, medical fields, hold positions in other attached counties and other cities, etc. Other family and BFFs in the Chamber of Commerce, media, in academia, secretive societies, who sit in many elected or non-elected positions with the whole show ignoring our issues, supporting censoring, refuse to discuss things like voter fraud, chronic life or death VA/contractor issues, to corrupt state supreme court officials, state’s AG and on it goes. Above the law and can do as they damn well please without accountability, ethics, trust, or anyone to stand up against any of it from the ground up. Ya know like the same family staying in positions of city or county attorneys with state’s AG protecting them all and as reported “on their side.”

        If a retired para-legal,an X swabby with same Mil credentials, friends in high places, knew the legal ropes, antics, grew up with of the most corrupt in our state, knew the corruption, had some connections, ears of politicians, etc., couldn’t get past his employers and all the levels of corruption and covering up over many years over his and other vets battles till his death then I sure as hell can’t get the attention needed at all. And lost my butt in the past trying to take some things to Fed court or be addressed by our fearless leaders all for nothing. They all know we mostly are mere “piss ants on the elephants butt.”

  4. “Thinned skinned?” Like… forever.

    “Red Herrings,” Straw-men/women games, escape goats, gas-lighting, self-aggrandizing veteran’s groups/unions/associations, excuses excuses, blah blah, etc.

    Anyone keeping up, or trying to, about medical kidnappings, much under-reporting about whistle-blowers or those wanting to get some truth out? In reference that can be Duck Duck searched to those like “free marty G campaigns” over child abuse in Boston hospitals and where it got him and totally isolated for such works? Yes the crap is VA and civy wide in “Murica.” Much less if any real news about targeted individuals who may ruffle the VA, governments, social justice warriors, AMA, American Bar’s and many others feathers? Better be quiet and not complain or suffer some retribution. Or to why so many getting these SMC benefits don’t want to discuss their issues with others or do any comparisons? Why some are flying high and doing good as others suffer and try to get their needed high priced equipment for care giving needs? Some for PR use on TV gets new homes built for them spouting how great their communities are while others are kicked when down and pushed to the curb? Horse poop. I mention Marty G. because it’s inline with the same governmental, medical folks, union, VA tactics and being ‘thin-skinned.’ And we sure as hell are not going to hear much about VA issues or incidents. Or much truth period from any MSM sources. Nor much from those ‘warrior groups’ bellying up in their bars sucking up suds and worrying more about the non-drinkers not funding the bar’s needs/funding or ‘da clubs’ than real issues. Or how they can get more people involved with veterans issues with a non-caring public. Yeah, it had to be said.

    Devil’s advocate point. Been years back but what about vets who are stuck with naughty care-givers or wives getting the bucks for their care but instead not doing so much with the funds? Like with lousy nursing home abuses how well known are these issues? Any scuttle-butt about that? I don’t know much about those benefits/programs but talking to one guy in the atrium one day was “trapped.” Fearful of speaking up. Needed funds and items going to casinos and supposed care-givers serving their own needs instead of some poor character that needs lifts to get out of bed but has to lay there until party time is over for others? Do they, will they, keep track of where those dollars or possible increases will go? And for what? Sad to report we live in one of the sickest most horrible times in the world or “Murica.” Not including those who are happy as clams and singing VA praises like a Lark non-stop. His story reminded me of the old song about Ruby don’t take your love to town stuff.

    Sad, like the many suicides not being covered or reported, knowing there are vets out there ‘trapped’ like that having to depend on like X-wives or others who are not capable of such commitments or care giving. And the ‘trapped’ not wanting to go into some home, minus nuclear or real family or real friends, surrounded by strangers and in this modern social climate enemies and the incompetent. Think the Gov, VA, or all those connected give a hoot? Crickets, they all have to “stay on the same page.” Defense, attacks, and cover-ups. All we get to see on TV or reports are the positives and PR crap, not much full circle realities. Seems they’d mention the needs for more funds to ensure some REAL visiting nurses can come in to ensure the patient is getting the quality and kind of care they really need.

  5. Well said brother . . . ” can we the veterans, hear any rebuttal? ” Wait, I hear the train a comin, no just more sophisticated wagons !

  6. 03/25/2019

    Dear Benjamin Krause,

    “Behind VA’s Caregiver Iron Curtain” is an administration that has failed over and over and over, and now the VA again has been exposed in fraudulent/murderous scheme to deny “tens of thousands” veterans/families.

    With all the discipline in the Armed Forces where has this discipline [corrective actions] gone referencing this rampant dysfunctional “stonewalling” VA?

    You asked, “Why would VA bureaucrats think it is okay to stiff caregivers?” Mr. Krause do not try to figure out insanity/the criminally insane.

    You asked, “And why is Veteran Warriors being treated differently than officials at The Big Six veteran organizations?” Because they are now a Whistleblower.

    Maybe the Wounded Warriors and other “organizations”/“external stakeholders” are realizing that major evidence is piling up against them and they too will be in the “hot” seat; I am sure they do not want to be in the hot seat.

    Suddenly, “ill prepared” Meg Kabat [VA Central Office] is gone after a three (3) year purge of caregivers and failing the congressional mandate [VA Caregiver Program client management system]; and most all, VA officials are now developing incredibly thin skin due to the relentlessness efforts of some individuals.
    Pretty soon the VA officials will be like Mexican Jumping Beans.

    After low balling TBI Veterans, “Graduating” Veterans under fraudulent intents [wrongful denials] with “no appellate oversight or access was allowed,” using “unqualified” non doctors, everyone at the VA is going to get heated-up.

    Where are Peake & Pincipi—and the others/QTCM Lockheed/Cerner $1.1B IT Failure/Leidos?
    How high do Mexican Jumping Beans jump?
    We are about to find out [especially after Mueller’s report].

    Sincerely,

    Don Karg

  7. Well, here’s an excellent example of how the Bureaucracies work together to divide and weaken Veterans.

    If you were blown up in one of the “good” wars AFTER 9/11, you are more deserving of care than if you had the misfortune to be blown up in a “bad” war. And just in case the unwashed of pre-9.11 infamy should think about banding together, we also treat Vietnam Veterans separately (Agent Orange OK, Burn Pit NOK), and then there’s a whole other world of Veterans from Korea who are just lumped in with veterans from the Second World War.

    Seriously….what difference does it make how embarrassed the Federal Government is about their non-decision-making? The People of the United States chose—theoretically—to wage war on various entities, some of which were countries, some of which were “organisations”, some of which were just groups of people some allied-dictator didn’t like.

    From the end of the Clinton Administration, any person wounded by enemy action while serving, even if wounded by an entity, organisation, or state not directly at war with the US, is eligible for the award of a Purple Heart and all benefits associated with that award (including Service Connection for the injury and its residuals).

    Which begs the question of why the VA is lagging so far behind? I get that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are more popular than some rolling sideshow in the PI, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Or a counter-drug action in Colombia, or anti-Contra actions in Central America, or an airport in Lebanon. Or etc…

    I get it…it’s embarrassing that We sent guys off to kill and be killed (and fucked up) in half-assed committments to half-assed governments using half-assed measures and (often) leaving the Spooks to run the shows. But we did. So????

    One might suspect the VA hopes its implementing regulations divide Veterans, so that they fight one another for little scraps from the table, instead of banding together to demand we all be treated the same, and as we were promised.

    How silly of me.

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