Lawmakers seek Obama's help for caregivers

AP News
Posted: Mar 09, 2011 9:26 PM
Lawmakers seek Obama's help for caregivers

Four lawmakers asked for President Barack Obama's help this week in getting new services to family members of severely disabled Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Obama signed a law in May instructing the Veterans Affairs Department to provide benefits such as a monthly stipend, health insurance and mental health to family members who provide such care. But the agency missed a Jan. 31 deadline to implement the law, and the lawmakers said too few families are helped under the VA's plan.

Sens. Patty Murray and Richard Burr along with Reps. Jeff Miller and Bob Filner have oversight on veterans' issues. In a letter to Obama, they ask him to ensure the law is followed.

"VA's reluctance to work with Congress and veterans advocates has led to a situation where caregivers remain unclear if they will receive the support Congress intended for them," the letter said.

Nicholas Shapiro, a White House spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday that Obama views delays in payments to caregivers as unacceptable.

"He has directed his team to work through all options immediately to get these benefits to the caregivers and veterans who need them as quickly as possible," Shapiro said.

Last week, the VA said help could arrive for these caregivers this summer. It said it had submitted paperwork to put in place a temporary plan while it continued the government's rule-making process. During that time, the agency has said it will take public input on the plan's scope.

A VA spokeswoman has said caregivers for about 10 percent of the critically wounded from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would be eligible, an estimated 850 veterans.