Elizabeth Dole to Chair New VA Veterans’ Family, Caregivers & Survivor Advisory Committee

Liz dole

By Debbie Gregory.

VA Secretary David Shulkin continues to demonstrate his commitment to supporting our nation’s veterans and their caregivers through the formation of the Veterans’ Family, Caregiver, and Survivor Federal Advisory Committee. The committee will be chaired by former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole.

Dole is the founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the Hidden Heroes Campaign, both of which focus on military caregiving.

“Senator Dole is an accomplished and experienced advocate for Veterans’ caregivers,” said Secretary Shulkin. “I am honored that she will Chair this landmark Committee.”

The committee will advise the secretary on matters related to:

Veterans’ families, caregivers, and survivors across all generations, relationships, and Veteran status; the use of VA care and benefits services by veteran’s families, caregivers, and survivors, and possible adjustments to such care and benefits services; veterans’ family, caregiver, and survivor experiences, and VA policies, regulations, and administrative requirements related to the transition of Service members from the Department of Defense to enrollment in VA that impact veterans’ families, caregivers, and survivors; and actors that influence access to, quality of, and accountability for services and benefits for veterans’ families, caregivers, and survivors.

Senator Dole has walked the walk, as she was a caregiver to her husband, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, a World War II veteran injured in combat.

Committee members were chosen from a diverse group, including family members, caregivers, survivors, veteran-focused organizations, military history and academic communities, the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Executive Branch, research experts and service providers; and leaders of key stakeholder associations and organizations.

Former Marine Sherman Gillums, the executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, will serve as vice chair.

Committee members, in alphabetical order are: Ms. Mary Buckler, Ms. Bonnie Carroll, Ms. Melissa Comeau, Ms. Harriet Dominique, Ms. Jennifer Dorn, Ms. Ellyn Dunford, Dr. Robert Koffman,  Lt. Gen. (U.S. Army, Ret.) Mike Linnington, Mr. Joe Robinson, Ms. Elaine Rogers, Brig. Gen. (U.S. Army, Ret) Dr. Loree Sutton, Mr. Francisco Urena, Ms. Shirley White, Ms. Lee Woodruff, and Ms. Lolita Zinke.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

A Growing Army of Caregivers


By Debbie Gregory.

Family caregivers provide crucial support in caring for veterans. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act was signed into law in May, 2010. The law acknowledges the critical role of caregivers for seriously injured post- 9/11 veterans, and establishes a national program that addresses the wellness and training of family caregivers.

Due to advances in combat medicine and technology, more troops are surviving injuries that would have been fatal in past conflicts. But when they return home, they face life with devastating physical and psychological injuries.

The post-9/11 era produced 1.1 million caregivers, with about 20 percent of them caring for veterans.

The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act offers caregivers a monthly stipend, as well as healthcare coverage, training, respite care and mental health counseling.

Eligibility for the stipend is evaluated annually and ranges from $650 to $2,300 a month, based on the severity of the injuries and the geographic location of the caregiver and veteran. It is currently only available to those who care for Post 9/11 veterans. About 20 percent of these veterans have traumatic brain injury, and 64 percent struggle with mental health or substance abuse.

The VA has since partnered with Easter Seals to provide caregiver training in several formats: classroom, workbook and online. Overall, about 30,000 caregivers have received training.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation commissioned the first evidence-based study focused on the needs of military caregivers. Hidden Heroes, conducted by the RAND Corporation, found that almost half of the post-9/11 caregivers are between 18 and 30 years old, without a lot of financial stability and with no previous training in caregiving. And the commitment is taking a toll: More than one-third meet the criteria for probable depression.

“Our nation has a clear responsibility to better support America’s military and veteran caregivers,” said former Sen. Elizabeth Dole. “This is not a short-term problem in need of a quick solution. . . . Our nation cannot let these caregivers take on this role alone.”

If you think you fit the criteria for these services, please follow the link to answer some preliminary questions and download an application at

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.