BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
A Peninsula woman is raising the alarm that potentially hundreds of San Mateo County veterans, and their families, could lose a lifeline due to changes at the VA.
The alarm is being raised by Rachel Moore of San Mateo, whose husband is an Iraqi war veteran who is now disabled. Moore is her husband’s full-time caregiver ever since he was discharged in 2013. Moore receives income, training and support from the VA under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
She explained her situation, and that of an estimated 700 other San Mateo County families, to the county’s Veterans Committee at its virtual meeting on Monday.
Over the past few years, the VA has redesigned the program, which was initially designed for post 9/11 veterans, and is opening it up to a broader swath of vets. But this means the VA is re-evaluating the current beneficiaries of the program and is either unenrolling them from the program or reducing their benefits.
Moore estimates there are some 700 families in San Mateo County who may lose benefits, if not completely, in some form.
Lack of information from VA
Moore told the committee she is trying to get a better idea of how many people in the area will be unenrolled from the program but the VA is requiring she file a FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act, to get the numbers.
Moore told the committee that her family will lose 40% of their income in March 2023 after they are removed from the program.
While it’s possible for families to appeal the VA’s decision, she said the requirements are more stringent than trying to enroll a loved one into hospice.
Veterans caregivers will have to re-enter the workforce, Moore said, which could put veterans at risk if they are home alone. Additionally, it could reduce income from Social Security.
After Moore told her story to the county committee, the members agreed to have a subcommittee present at its next meeting on the issue. The committee could then take a formal position on the matter and request the county supervisors do as well.
Benefits vary as to program
Committee member Ed Kiryczun, who also works for the county’s Veterans Services office, pointed out that some of the changes in the program relate to how frequently a veteran needs assistance. That can be hard to track depending on what sort of issue they are dealing with, he said. For veterans with PTSD or severe anxiety, there could be good days and really bad days where assistance is needed.
Kiryczun called the program the “lifeline” that keeps families such as Moore’s afloat, and it’s being taken away from them.