Wife of wounded veteran triple-amputee husband fighting to remain his caregiver

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- For the past few years, Ashlee Williams has served as the primary caregiver for her husband JD, who lost both legs and his right arm while serving in Afghanistan.

In November, Ashlee was notified that she would be moved to part-time status by the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC).

She feared she would have to find another job; one that would leave her husband vulnerable at their home.

She says the VA reevaluated JD's case and dropped her status from tier three to tier one, despite the fact that her husband's needs have not changed.

"There was never an in-home visit where anyone came to our house, saw the care that I give him, saw the care that provide him, which is very frustrating," she said. "It takes someone really coming into our lives to see what I do for him."

Ashlee met with with her elected representatives, and they had a lot to say.

"We have veterans in a situation that need full-time care, and there's nobody better to do it than the spouse," said Rep. Brett Guthrie, "but then we also look at, 'what is the whole system?' and if it's not working for someone in JD's situation, than is it working for other people?"

Ashlee has since learned that her status as JD's caregiver was restored to its original status, but says the fight is no longer about herself.

"Regardless of my outcome with my situation I'm going to continue to fight for other caregivers because some people don't have that voice," she said, "so I want to be that voice and I want to make sure that these caregivers that have reached out to me are getting their situation under control. I want to make sure they have that voice."

Williams says if they've altered her status as caregiver once, there's nothing telling her they won't do it again.

She says she's heard from many others who have experienced the same thing she has.

In a statement to 13 News, a VA spokes person said, "Eligibility for VA’s caregivers program is complex, and determinations are often made by multi-disciplinary teams, including primary care doctors, rehab professionals, and mental health clinicians."

The statement went on to say, "VA is working to establish clearer, more objective eligibility criteria to ensure consistency in these determinations."

According to the VA Office's website, they are now requesting public comment regarding the implementation of changes to the family caregiver program (PCAFC).

They will be taking comments from the public until December 12.

Veterans eligible for the program include those that have sustained or aggravated a "serious injury — including traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma or other mental disorder — in the line of duty, on or after September 11, 2001."

They must also be in need of "personal care services to perform one or more activities of daily living and/or need supervision or protection based on symptoms or residuals of neurological impairment or injury."

The goal of all VA health care programs is to help Veterans achieve their highest level of health, quality of life and independence.

For more information of the family caregiver program click here.


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