[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced that his legislation to increase access to compensation for catastrophically injured service members who require assistance in everyday living was signed into law today by President Obama as part of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation – co-sponsored by Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) – improved a limited Defense Department proposal to better assist families who need financial assistance as they put the brakes on their lives to care for a family member injured in the line of duty.
“Our Armed Forces are now better equipped to provide for the families of injured service members who are in need of additional assistance,” said Durbin. “We owe it to our injured men and women in the military, and to the family members who help them – and us – with so much. I want to thank President Obama, Senator Nelson and my colleagues for their support of this legislation.”
Since September 11, 2001, approximately 6,800 members of the Armed Forces have received serious injuries in the line of duty. Many of these service members require temporary or even permanent assistance to carry out daily activities of life while they recover or begin the process of separation from the military. During this time, their families often leave their jobs and their communities to provide them with care, often at great financial and personal sacrifice. With this legislation, the Armed Forces will be able to provide compensation to assist families and friends for the care they provide to a seriously injured service member.
Durbin noted that many service members are better able to recover with the help of their family members, and require less use of emergency care, institutionalization and veterans’ health system services in the long run. The program created by this legislation will also create a bridge to a strong family caregiver program in the Department of Veterans Affairs, an effort Durbin has championed in legislation he introduced in March and is working to enact into law.
The final legislation will:
• Provide additional compensation to catastrophically injured service members who have been injured in the line of duty, for their families to use in assisting with their care. Service members will receive this compensation as long as they continue to serve in the military.
• Provide that compensation for another 90 days after a service member separates or retires from the military, unless he or she dies, is no longer afflicted with the injury or illness, or starts to receive VA benefits. This provision will help seriously injured veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, some of whom currently suffer a gap in benefits from the time they leave military service to the time the VA processes their benefits application.
• Increase the maximum amount of monthly compensation, consistent with the DoD/VA Wounded, Ill, and Injured Senior Oversight Committee and an April 2009 Center for Naval Analysis study on the economic impact faced by caregivers of seriously wounded, ill, and injured service members.
• Require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to inform service members of the availability of the compensation by including information about it in written and online materials for service members and their families.