By Debbie Gregory.
Family caregivers sacrifice so much of themselves in order to give their loved ones the highest quality of life possible. Yet most people are unaware of who these caregivers are and the role they play and the unique obstacles they face, especially those who are caring for a disabled veteran.
Veterans who were injured after Sept. 11, 2001 and require at-home care have access to for the full package of caregiver supports through the VA. However, this is not true for veterans who were severely injured prior to 2001.
Veteran service organizations such as Disabled American Veterans (DAV) are working with the VA and Congress to change this policy, in the hopes of expanding VA caregiver benefits, such as training and education, financial stipends, health insurance and respite care to all veterans, regardless of when they served.
Of the 5.5 million caregivers who provide support to current and former service members, roughly 80%, (4.4 million) are caring for veterans from military service prior to 2001. The majority of caregivers are spouses who receive very little in the way of benefits or support.
Expanding the VA’s caregiver support program is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, as family caregivers not only enhance the quality of life for those they care for, but also save the government significantly in long-term health care costs.
And with some 57% of veteran caregivers over the age of 55, they are more likely to experience health concerns of their own, which could result in increased strain on both the veteran and the caregiver.