SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Veteran Tricia Smith served in Iraq and suffered a back injury. She has since developed Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. She needed a caregiver and originally the Veterans Affairs Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers Program helped Smith pay for one. However, she recently saw the VA cut the monthly stipend for her caregiver by $65 percent.
Smith’s story is one of many veterans that Senator Chuck Schumer said have been unfairly affected by the program not working the way it’s supposed to.
“A family who so much wants to take care of their veteran shouldn’t have to choose between paying the bills or staying home,” Schumer said.
The caregiver program was enacted in 2010 and covers those injured in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001. The program was set to expand next October to cover veterans injured in the Vietnam and Korean Wars. Schumer said he hoped to fix the existing issues within the program before that happens.
The VA told Smith they cut her stipend because her health had improved. She said that’s not true.
“The only thing that changed was my address,” Smith said. “I went from a rental property in Binghamton to a nice house in the country outside Syracuse.”
Darla Chase, a caregiver, said the veteran she takes care of spent 34 years in the armed forces. He has no visible wounds. However, Chase made it clear his mental scars are just as debilitating.
“He wishes he has lost an arm or limb, because people look at him and think he’s normal,” Chase said. “He’s 100 percent disabled.”
“People are being kicked off the program for no reason and not put back on,” Schumer added. “People are not let in to the program and the VA doesn’t even explain it to people.”