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Amata takes leadership role in hearing on aging veterans and caregivers

Amata with Senator Bob Dole
Source: Congresswoman Uifaatali Amata's Office

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata took on the role of Ranking Member in Tuesday’s hearing of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee to examine the topic, “Aging in Place: Examining Veterans’ Access to Home and Community Based Services.” Members of Congress discussed building on successful methods such as the Veteran Directed Care program.

Serving as acting Ranking Member, Amata gave the following statement: “We are here this morning to discuss how well VA is prepared to meet the long-term care needs of our nation’s veterans – including the growing number who prefer to stay at home as they age. On March 3, 2020 – just days before COVID-19 turned the world upside down – this Subcommittee held a hearing very similar to this one. A lot has changed since then. But what has not changed is the fact that veterans need long-term care in greater and greater numbers, and that more and more of them are choosing home and community-based programs that allow them to age in place and postpone or prevent nursing home care.”

She continued, “These dynamics are placing demands on VA’s long term care programs and requiring VA to get creative with respect to providing care and support in a veteran’s own home. One of VA’s newest and most creative long term care program is the Veteran Directed Care program. The Veteran Directed Care program allocates a particular budget to a veteran and lets the veteran use that budget as they choose to get the help they need. This puts veterans in the driver’s seat, empowering them with the freedom and the flexibility to personalize their care to meet their unique, individual needs.

 “The Republican witness for this hearing is Rashi Romanoff from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Her testimony calls the Veteran Directed Care program the model for what the future of aging in place looks like. I fully agree with her. I look forward today to learning how this Committee can support Veteran Directed Care – and also to exploring how the Veteran Directed Care model of personalized care and personal choice might benefit veterans in other areas.

 “I am also interested in learning what additional challenges the pandemic has caused for VA’s long term care programs and what progress VA has made to respond to the failures found by the Government Accountability Office in a February 2020 report on VA long term care. That report found persistent problems with respect to workforce shortages, geographic misalignment, and specialty care and made three recommendations for improvement. VA concurred with those recommendations, but I do not believe they have been addressed in the year and a half since they were made. I hope they will be very soon.

 “Finally, I am also eager to learn how VA and Congress can better support the caregivers of aging veterans. Veterans who wish to stay at home as they age can often only do so because they have support from a family member, friend, or paid caregiver. We must pay attention to the needs of caregivers and help connect veterans, particularly those with limited family support, with caregivers or medical foster homes so that they are not unfairly pushed into institutional care.

 “And, while we are on the topic of caregivers, I have one final note before I close. I mentioned a moment ago that the Minority witness for this hearing is from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. The Foundation does life-saving work for military and veteran caregivers and is, of course, named after Senator Elizabeth Dole who was inspired by the needs of her husband, Senator Bob Dole. Senator Bob Dole celebrated his birthday last Thursday. Senator Elizabeth Dole will celebrate her birthday this Thursday. I wish them both many happy returns and thank them for their continued service to veterans, to caregivers, and to our great country.”

Following the questions, Amata closed her remarks, “I just want to thank the Chairwoman again and all my colleagues for their work on behalf of veterans. Our veterans deserve to live out their later years in dignity and comfort, and I look forward to continuing our work on this issue. Thank you again to the panelists and thank you to all our veterans for your service. God Bless you and God Bless America. Soifua.”