Veterans Health Administration Overwhelmed by Caregiver Applications

The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to struggle to meet the demands of applications for a program intended to assist family members caring for wounded veterans, according to testimony at a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Wednesday.

“The number of applications we’re getting every month is 500. We had anticipated that the number of applications would eventually reach a plateau, but that hasn’t happened,” said Dr. Maureen McCarthy, the deputy chief of patient care services at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

The VHA’s Family Caregiver Program began in May of 2011, a year after the president signed it into law. Officials initially estimated that 4,000 eligible caregivers would enroll in the program within the first three years. By May of 2014, more than 15,000 caregivers were approved for the program—nearly quadruple the original estimate.

The Government Accountability Office released a report in September 2014 evaluating the program and found that in addition to “significantly underestimat[ing]” the demand for services, the program was hamstrung by an outdated information technology (IT) system.