b'.VA strengthens continued from page 7 Providing home and community-based care alternativesand expanding our program to positively impact the lives ofthrough the Choose Home Initiative at 21 VA medical centers.Veterans and deliver the best customer experience to themEstablishing the Center for Excellence for Veteran and and their caregivers.Caregiver Research named after Senator Elizabeth Dole.In December 2018, VA suspended certain discharges fromExpanding telehealth services to enable Veterans and theirthe program due to ongoing concerns about inconsistentcaregivers to get care in the comfort of their homes.application of eligibility requirements at VA medical centers. Delivering valuable programs for caregivers such as peer Since then, VA has held listening sessions with caregiverssupport mentoring, a Caregiver Support Line, self-care and other stakeholders, developed or amended 14 standardcourses and educational programs to help caregivers succeed. operating procedures to clarify program requirements for Caregivers play a critical role in enabling Veterans to maintain VA staff, increased oversight in each Veterans Integratedtheir highest level of independence and remain in their homes Service Network, provided training and education to staff and communities for as long as possible. VA leads the nation and caregivers and is boosting operational capacity with in providing unprecedented benefits and services to caregivers.the hiring of more than 680 staff.The MISSION Act strengthens VAs ability to serve as a To modernize its caregiver IT system, VA is adopting trusted partner in the care of our nations most vulnerable a three-phased approach and will deploy a new system Veterans. To learn more about the many support services based on a commercial off the shelf product called Caregiveravailable for caregivers of Veterans, visit www.caregiver.va.gov.Record Management Application (CARMA) beginning in October 2019. VA will deploy phase two in January 2020 toVA and Hiring our Heroes centralize and automate stipend payment calculations and expects to deploy phase three in the summer of 2020, whichPartner on Military Spouse will enable caregivers to apply for benefits online. VA willthen perform testing and verify that the system has full Hiring Initiativefunctionality before expanding the program as requiredunder the MISSION Act.www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=5293The expansion will occur in two phases, beginning in WASHINGTONThe U.S Department of Veterans Affairs the summer of 2020 or once the Secretary has certified (VA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundations that the new IT system is fully implemented. In the firstHiringOur Heroes initiative recently joined efforts to lead phase, PCAFC will be expanded to eligible Veterans whoand support military spouse employment at VA and throughout incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty the federal government, and reduce the high unemployment on or before May 7, 1975.rate for military spouses.The final phase of the expansion will begin two years Effective July 29, 2019, this initiative is part of both Secretary later. It will expand PCAFC to eligible Veterans who incurredWilkies priority of improving the customer and employee or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty after experience, as well as the Department of Defenses (DOD) May 7, 1975 through September 10, 2001.priority of retaining service members and supporting mil-Additionally, VA has gathered input and is developingitary families. As one of only 10 federal agencies and the regulatory changes to streamline the program and provideonly VA entity that is a member of DODs Military Spouse more clarity for Veterans and their family caregivers. VA willEmployment Partnership (MSEP), the Board of Veterans publish a proposed rule for public comment prior to issuingAppeals (Board)with the support of the Veterans final regulations.Experience Office (VEO) and Office of Human ResourcesVA is also working across the department to ensure and Administration (HR&A)will lead the effort focusing caregivers have a positive experience through programon the experience, skills and values that military spouses improvements and initiatives to include: bring to their jobs such as resiliency, agility, global citizenship and unique understanding of the challenges of the Veterans and their families.This type of intergovernmental collaboration to promote the hiring and retention of military spouses, is important not only for current servicemen and women and their families, but also for Veterans and their families, said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. Military spouses bring a unique perspective to the federal workplace, and I am proud that VA is leading the charge in this area.The effort will encourage both the use of the military spouse hiring authorityas well as federal government participation in MSEPand leverage best practices to improve the employee experience and achieve a successful, collective impact, for this population. As VAs representative, 8 Military Appreciation Resource Magazine Aberdeen Proving Ground'