Expanding caregiver program for wounded vets costs billions, pledges to work with Congress

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it supports expanding an enhanced caregivers' benefit for wounded veterans but only if Congress comes up with the billions needed to pay for the expansion.

The program is now limited to veterans who served after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. VA says expansion to all veterans would make it more equitable, but that without extra funding, basic health care benefits to veterans would be jeopardized.

Congress created the program in 2010, giving caregivers of seriously wounded veterans a stipend, health care and at least 30 days of respite care each year.

Lawmakers told the VA to study the feasibility of the expansion after some veterans groups raised questions about fairness.

The study, distributed to lawmakers Wednesday, says an expansion would cost up to $3.8 billion in the coming year.