Like The Little Engine That Could, the Veteran Warriors lawsuit fighting VA caregiver purge rules successfully extended discharge dates for caregivers three years in interim rule change.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) submitted interim rule changes Thursday that stop the pending March 2023 caregiver discharge. The changes were the agency’s long-awaited response to the Veteran Warriors v Secretary of Veterans Affairs lawsuit challenging rules previously implemented that caused the infamous 90 percent caregiver purge by March 2022.
The rule change serves to protect legacy caregivers by extending any proposed discharge dates by three years instead of March 2023. The discharge date of those impacted is now September 30, 2025. This is a big win, but the bigger fight is yet to come to protect the rights of legacy caregivers needing support throughout the veteran’s life.
“We will stop at nothing to make sure Veterans and their caregivers get the support they need and deserve, and this extension is a key part of that effort,” said VA Deputy Secretary Donald M. Remy. “As I’ve said before, trust is earned, it’s not given. We hope we can earn the trust of Veterans and caregivers through our continued efforts.”
“This extension allows us to continue supporting this cohort of Veterans and caregivers, while VA separately conducts program improvement initiatives aimed at ensuring the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers addresses the unique needs of Veterans of all eras and their caregivers,” said VA Caregiver Support Program Executive Director Colleen M. Richardson, Psy.D. “Moving forward, we will continue to examine ways to improve this program and make sure it delivers for Veterans and their caregivers.”
Some of you may recall yesterday’s publication here of the “Remy Challenge” sent to the Secretary by this news organization September 2. “Secretary, the caregivers will want to know, ‘Will you give us a voice?’”
The comments of the Deputy Secretary in VA’s presser yesterday seem to confirm the agency has accepted the challenge.
Veteran Warriors Lawsuit Cited 30 Times
Not only did the Secretary give legacy caregivers a voice, but it appears the agency fully embraced rulemaking supporting disenfranchised caregivers through its multiple citations to the Veteran Warriors lawsuit.
Of note, Veteran Warriors via its lawsuit title was referenced 30 times in the interim rule change document linked above.
The Veteran Warriors organization has historically been a self-funded, non-DC insider led grass roots group fighting for the rights of caregivers and veterans. Through its legal counsel at NVLSP, Veteran Warriors hit a home run here for caregivers in the lawsuit that many DC insiders said did not have a snowballs chance in hades of succeeding.
EDF On The Veteran Warriors Lawsuit
Meanwhile, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF) was not referenced once by the agency or in the interim rules despite its multi-million-dollar budget, corporate sponsors, impressive staff, and entrenched relationships within senior VA leadership going back ten years.
The lack of recognition of EDF in the interim rule submission may come as no surprise since the well-funded, DC-insider led EDF, widely considered the face of the VA Caregiver Program, opted to NOT use its vast monetary and legal resources to litigate the same matter.
Did EDF did not spot the same legal errors highlighted by Veteran Warriors in the lawsuit? Perhaps EDF needs more sponsors to fill that void.
Instead, over the past two years, EDF did hold a fair number of well-decorated and well-attended annual parties attended by DC insiders, VA leadership, and private sector sponsors. It is, after all, a full-time job to schedule, plan and execute annual galas and annual national convening parties. Videos of the events certainly suggest no expense was spared to ensure each party helps enhance the objectives of its attendees.
Now, not to be outdone by the 30x references to Veteran Warriors and its lawsuit in the regulatory paperwork, EDF CEO Steve Schwab commented on the rule change from what appears to be his DC apartment following a Zoom call with Secretary Denis McDonough.
Did Schwab give credit to the well-cited Veteran Warriors litigation leading to the change that supports many of EDF’s own supporters the same day he recorded this video?
Wait for it. Wait for it. Nope.
Is EDF Spinning Credit?
In listening to Schwab’s announcement, it almost seems as if EDF believes its efforts were responsible for the rule changes announced Thursday. If I had not read the agency’s press release and spoken with Veteran Warriors, that is certainly the impression I may have come away with.
Should EDF pay public homage to the source of the big win? It seems appropriate at this stage for EDF to attempt to partner with Veteran Warriors given the lesson that can be learned. A lot can be accomplished with very little even without galas and annual convening parties. How much do those cost, anyway?
This week, Schwab apparently battled through laryngitis just in time to highlight his Zoom call with Secretary McDonough to discuss the rulemaking shortly after the presser.
One YouTube commenter noted, “I thought that you had laryngitis, and you couldn’t talk for the rest of the week? I’m glad that you got your voice back now that it is time to take credit for something you didn’t do.”
Veteran Warriors Presser
Let’s give credit where credit is due. With a budget that was mainly self-funded over the years, Veteran Warriors torpedoed the harmful protocol implemented by VA leadership with Meg Kabat at the help. I can envision the organizations founder, Lauren Price, dancing a jig in heaven with this news. We miss your passion, Lauren.
The political effect of this current maneuver helps VA and the Biden Administration sidestep a potentially catastrophic public relations issue being discharged caregivers coming up on this pending election cycle.
Here is a link to the press release from the Veteran Warriors that explains the impact of the changes on caregivers. As you look at their modest press release, just imagine what Veteran Warriors could accomplish with just half the budget EDF enjoys.
What do you think could be done with a bit more funding tossed to Veteran Warriors?
The big takeaway here is that these legacy caregivers set for discharge March 2023 are at least protected for three years to the end of September 2025. Now, the hard work is up to the agency and lawmakers to iron out appropriate legislation to protect the rights of these caregivers.