RAO Davao City

United States Military Retiree Activities Office Davao City, Philippines

VA INDEPENDENT LIVING PROGRAM UPDATE 1 August 2008

Posted by Service Officer on July 31st, 2008

A House subcommittee was told 17 July that the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Independent Living Program is failing to adequately address the needs of severely disabled veterans.

Bruce McCartney, a former soldier, told the House Veterans’ Affairs economic opportunity subcommittee that the ILP is riddled with problems related to application delays, staffing shortages and limited spots in the program. The ILP, created as part of VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services, is designed to provide severely disabled veterans with specialized medical and mental health assistance and training in independent living skills. McCartney, who spent 17½ years on active duty, applied for the ILP in 2003 and was taken on what he called a “four year-nightmare.” His application spent four years going from local case managers to counselors and regional and local headquarters until he finally began receiving assistance last year. “ILP should service all eligible [veterans], and it should be faster,” McCartney said. “It should not take two to three years.”

Part of the problem is high demand; the ILP can serve only 2,500 veterans at one time. Veterans can stay in the program for up to 30 months. Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., said many severely disabled veterans have benefited from the program, but he also said he believes the cap on participants should be modified or removed. Theresa Boyd, vocational rehabilitation consultant for Paralyzed Veterans of America, said case managers sometimes try to slow down the process for individual veterans to accommodate to cap. She said VA should hire more staff and remove the cap. John Lancaster, executive director of the National Council on Independent Living, told lawmakers that the application process should take only about a month. “VR&E should be the crown jewel of programs for disabled veterans,” said Rep. John Boozman (R-AR). “While I am impressed with the overall program, I believe we must find ways to make improvements in performance assessment methods so that VR&E can be certain it is meeting the needs of disabled veterans.” [Source: AirForceTimes Cristian Hernandez article 17 Jul 08 ++]

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