As a Result of Durbin-authored Law, Family Caregivers Of Veterans Start Receiving Financial Assistance

Durbin Encourages Other Family Caregivers to Apply

[CHICAGO, IL] – Hundreds of families who have taken on the enormous task of caring for America’s most seriously wounded warriors are now receiving financial assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Family Caregiver Program, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today. The Family Caregiver Program provides technical, financial and practical support to family caregivers of post-9/11 veterans seriously injured in the line of duty. To date, 36 Illinois families are participating in the caregiver program and 1,030 families are enrolled nationwide.


“Family members caring for an injured veteran often give up their full-time jobs, bear the cost of home care and even make cross country moves in search of treatment. That’s why I fought for the Caregivers Act—to provide financial assistance, health care and counseling to family caregivers of service members who have been severely disabled,” Durbin said.


The Family Caregiver Program was created by a Durbin-authored provision in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 which was enacted May 5, 2010. The VA issued its first Caregivers checks in early July, which average $1,600 a month.


Approximately 3,500 veterans are eligible for the Caregivers program nationwide. But so far, only 67 veterans in Illinois and 2,112 nationally have applied. “We need to get the word out about this program. I want to encourage family caregivers of post-9/11 veterans to apply. It’s not too late to start receiving benefits,” said Durbin.


More than 45 percent of family caregivers are between 26 and 40 years of age. Women make up 92 percent of the caregivers and two-thirds are spouses.


Durbin was joined at the news conference by Aimee and Corporal Yuriy Zmysly, who he met 2007. Yuriy, a retired Marine, served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005 respectively. He suffered an anoxic brain injury after a routine appendectomy on his base in 2006. Aimee dropped out of community college to become his caregiver. The Zmyslys have struggled financially since Yuriy’s injury, but were able to move into a specially-modified home in Oak Lawn last year after Salute Inc., a charity that helps disabled veterans, secured donations and volunteer labor. Aimee received her first caregivers benefits check in July.


Durbin was also joined by Kristina and Thomas (Tom) Hopkins. Tom served four tours overseas, including two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. While in Afghanistan, Tom was hit by an explosion that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. He also lives with spinal injuries and PTSD. Kristina and Tom received their first check in July.


“Because of advances in medicine and their own fighting spirit, many soldiers come home having suffered catastrophic disabilities, often from traumatic brain injuries. It is past time for our nation to step forward and provide support to these families. If you are a family caregiver of a catastrophically disabled post-9/11 veteran, or you know someone who is, call my office or the VA to receive assistance applying for this program,” Durbin said.


The Family Caregiver Program has also provided the VA with an additional way to let families know about two dozen existing benefits and services the VA offers. As one result, 65 previously uninsured family Caregivers are now receiving CHAMPVA health care.


Information outlining the application process is on the VA’s Caregivers website (http://www.caregiver.va.gov/) and available via the Caregiver Hotline at 1-855-260-3274. Applications can be processed by telephone, mail, online or in person at a local VA Medical Center, where Support Coordinators can assist in the application process.