Durbin and Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Legislation to Provide Support to Families of Severely Disabled Veterans
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today led a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing legislation to provide essential support services to family caregivers of severely disabled veterans. The Veteran and Servicemember Family Caregiver Support Act of 2009 establishes a program to provide technical, financial and practical support to family caregivers of veterans or members of the Armed Forces seriously injured in the line of duty since September 11, 2001. Durbin introduced today’s legislation with Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM).
“Families across America are caring each day for the 6,800 men and women who have come home from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars unable to perform daily functions or live independently,” said Durbin. “Many of these families are making enormous sacrifices to care for their loved ones. They are often forced to give up their full-time jobs, bear the cost of home care and even move across the country in search of treatment. It is time for our nation to step forward and provide support to the families of our brave men and women.”
Since September 11, 2001, at least 6,800 veterans and members of the Armed Forces have been injured and are living with disabilities severe enough to require near around the clock care. Many family members stop working outside the home to become primary caregivers. They often do so at great financial and personal sacrifice, while the government is relieved of providing nursing home care, or otherwise paying for care it is obligated to provide.
“Many veterans treated with home-based care require less use of emergency care, institutionalization and veterans health system services,” said Durbin. “If we invest in quality care at home, we not only enhance the quality of life for our veterans, but we can delay or forgo their need for more expensive institutional care.”
The Veteran and Servicemember Family Caregiver Support Act of 2009 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a two-year pilot program in six locations available to a veteran or member of the Armed Forces who was disabled in the line of duty after September 11, 2001, if the disability requires institutional care or home-based services. If the pilot programs are successful, the legislation provides authority to expand the program nationwide. The legislation would:
• Require training and certification of family caregivers by VA and Department of Defense (DoD). The costs associated with training incurred by family caregivers would be covered by the VA or the DoD.
• Allow family caregivers to receive payment for the care they provide once they are trained and certified. The amount of payment would be determined by the VA based on the amount and level of care required for each participant. Costs would be paid by VA, with DoD reimbursement to VA for services benefiting servicemembers.
• Provide for training and certification of an alternate caregiver to relieve the primary caregiver if deemed necessary. In addition, the VA would be required to study further options to improve the availability of respite care.
• Require VA and DoD to make access to mental health and support services available to family caregivers who require these services as it relates to their caregiving. The program would include an assessment of the caregiver’s needs and referral to relevant services available.
• Conduct a survey of family caregivers to better understand the value of services provided by this population and assess the overall performance of the pilot program.
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