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KFOX14Investigates: Advocates find thousands of veteran caregivers are losing benefits

Veteran Warrior founder Lauren Price

Advocates and military families say thousands of veteran families are losing benefits from one Veteran Affairs program.

KFOX14 Investigates has learned thousands of veteran caregivers are being dismissed from the care giver program at an alarming rate.

Monday, the VA put a temporary stop to that.

KFOX14 Investigates has been following the problems within the program for months,

The care givers program was set up to take care of wounded warriors coming home from conflicts in the Middle East. It allows for family members, often spouses, to be full time caregivers for vets who need round the clock supervision, attention and support.

Many wounded warriors need constant care.

“Our current conflicts have produced veterans who would otherwise not have survived,” explained Veteran Warrior founder Lauren Price. “Now that they are coming home the facilities just don't exist, to care for them,” said Price,

Advocates like Price have found in the last two years, the VA has been cutting off thousands of caregivers from the program, even though their veteran’s disability hasn’t changed.

“There are days that he's just gone,” said Mary a caregiver living in the Borderland.

KFOX14 is not revealing Mary’s identity because the family fears retaliation from the VA for speaking out.

Mary's husband was hit by several IED’s in Iraq.

He has a traumatic brain injury and PTSD among other injuries.

The VA considers him 100 percent disabled.

Mary said she had to leave grad school to care for her husband full time. She said she cannot leave the house for more than 45 minutes to an hour, because of the attention he needs.

Even though being a caregiver is difficult Mary said they are a team.

“I wouldn't do anything for him he wouldn't be willing to do for me,” said Mary.

Mary said when she gave up her career and enrolled in the caregiver program it was a tremendous help to her family.

The program gives caregivers like Mary a stipend between $2,400 hundred and $650 a month on average so they can care for their wounded warrior full time.

The program also provides health insurance for the family, support and other benefits.

It consists of three different tier levels depending on the vet’s disability level.

Recently, Mary found out their tier level was reduced. Meaning they would receive less financial assistance and less resources. Mary said it puts the family in a financial bind and few options.

Even through all of this, medically, absolutely nothing has changed with her husband’s condition. He still needs constant care.

“It’s heartbreaking for him. It hurts us as a family but it hurts him as a person,” said Mary.

Mary said her husband’s doctors at the VA are penning letters for an appeal.

“All of them are livid and they can’t believe that this is happening to us and happening to other vets in our position,” said Mary.

But it’s a practice happening across the country.

“You have all of these social workers and alleged medical professionals that suddenly say that you are better or your veteran is better, but you don't see it and you have nowhere to turn,” said Price

Veteran Warriors is an organization in Florida fighting to address the problems with the caregiver program.

Price is a wounded veteran with a terminal lung disease, her husband was her caregiver and then one day they were dropped from the program even though her medical condition had not changed.

“It had actually gotten worse,” said Price.

Now Price is dedicated to changing the alarming trend.

She's reviewed more than 400 cases of families dropped or reduced.

“We cannot find any consistency,” said Price.

From documents the VA presented to Congress, Veteran Warriors discovered 26,000 caregivers were revoked in the past two years.

“It's diabolical,” said Price.

That doesn't account for the families like Mary's who have been reduced tier levels and now face uncertainty.

The data presented to Congress, shows the VA is also denying caregivers from entering the program at an unprecedented rate.

In 2016 almost 70 percent of families who applied were denied.

In 2012, that number was 40 percent.

“There's no other logical explanation other than this other than money,” said Price.

Price said, her theory is that supervisors are rejecting applicants and revoking caregivers from the program in order for the program to come in under budget, so that employees can receive bonuses tied to budget performance.

Monday, the VA a sent out a memo suspending the process of revocations for now.

Price hopes it’s the first step toward fixing a broken system meant to provide for our hurting heroes.

This program is meant for families like Mary's who need it to keep their warrior safe at home.

“He would have had to be institutionalized. There's no doubt about it. And right now without that program that's a huge possibility and that tears him up every day,” said Mary.

Veteran Warriors said it's working to get a hearing before Congress and Mary’s family has filed an appeal.

KFOX14 reached out to the VA and will bring you updated information when we receive it.

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