Caregiver Benefits
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Veterans are susceptible to illnesses, life changing injuries, PTSD, financial hardships, fatigue and more issues but yet they sign for service anyway because they feel like it’s their duty. It’s commendable work and should be recognized on a government level when possible.

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers stipends, training, paid breaks and other benefits to the caregivers of post-9/11 veterans through a program passed in 2010. This leaves a lot to be covered on other incomes. In the years since, there hasn’t been a replacement that was put in law and there are numerous families needing support. There is, however, a proposed $3.4 billion in federal funding over the next five years that would extend caregivers’ benefits to family and friends performing full-time care for veterans of all eras. On Wednesday, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved the expansion of the post-9/11 caregiver program. This approval is part of a new to breathe new life into the VA’s health-care system. If this approval does go through and is indeed signed into law, there will be benefits that will work hard to provide help to caregivers of veterans injured before May 1975. This law will also expand the parameters to help the families of those hurt from May 1975 to September 2001.

Of those veterans is David W. Riley. Riley is a medically retired Coast Guard rescue swimmer, who is also a quadruple amputee. The expansion of the Caregivers Act would help his wife care for him and allow them to pay for training and much needed breaks between caregiving stints, which would improve the family’s quality of life. Riley notes that there isn’t a lot of knowledge beforehand about proper rituals of caretaking.

Riley says of his wife: “To this day, she puts me together in the morning. She takes me apart at night,” Riley said in a telephone interview from their family home in Semmes, Ala. “It’s a full-time job. But she’s never gotten paid or training.” There is no set amount time for reprieve or training to learn how to properly take care of veterans that desperately need to be taken care of. Garry Augustine, executive director of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Washington headquarters, called expanding the benefits, “the right thing to do,” adding “you can’t have certain benefits for some veterans and none for others.” Joyce Wessel Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, said that in the long run, this (the bill) may be less expensive than paying for long-term nursing care. Raezer goes on to say: The program would include hiring hundreds of people to review requests for benefits, and involve a massive undertaking to create a network of nurses and social workers who can offer breaks for caregivers. “After 9/11, the wounds were fresh and there were many caregivers who were losing their jobs to care for their spouses — so there was a lot of momentum,” Raezer said. “We always wanted to keep the door open to find a way to expand this. Everyone agrees it should be done. It’s just finding the money.”

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