Durbin: Family Caregivers of Disabled Service Members to Receive Training, Stipend

[CHICAGO, IL] –Family caregivers for veterans and service members seriously injured in the line of duty will receive training and education, a monthly stipend and counseling services as a result of legislation authored by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and signed into law last week.   The Durbin-authored provision was included in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010.

“Families across America are caring each day for the 720 men and women who come home from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars each year unable to perform daily functions or live independently,” Durbin said. “Family members often give up their full-time jobs, bear the cost of home care and make cross country moves in search of treatment. With the passage of this bill, we’re standing behind the brave men and women who make enormous sacrifices to care for their loved ones.”

Many veterans treated with home-based care require less use of emergency care, institutionalization and veterans health system services, Durbin noted. “If we invest in quality care at home, we enhance the quality of life for our veterans, and often delay or forgo their need for more expensive institutional care.”

In describing the importance of the new law, Durbin noted the circumstances of Aimee Zmysly and her permanently disabled husband Corporal Yuriy Zmysly.  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, and Aimee dropped out of community college to become his caregiver.  He goes to Hines VA for physical therapy that will help him relearn to eat, walk and speak.  The Zmyslys have struggled financially since Yuriy’s injury.  They moved into a specially-modified home in Oak Lawn earlier this year after Salute Inc., a charity that helps disabled veterans, secured donations and volunteer labor.  The Zmyslys had been living with Aimee’s parents a few blocks away since Yuriy’s injury.

The Wounded Warrior Project estimates that 2,000 post-9/11 veterans will require near around-the-clock care for the long-term.  Many family members quit their jobs, lose their health insurance, and go through their savings as they stay home to care for their wounded soldiers.  The toll on the caregivers often results in higher rates of depression and poor health as they struggle to care for these wounded warriors—an obligation that ultimately belongs to the government.

The legislation requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish two programs available to a veteran, or member of the Armed Forces undergoing medical discharge, who was seriously disabled in the line of duty, if the disability requires institutional care or home-based services. The legislation:


  • Requires training of family caregivers at government expense;
  • Allows family caregivers to receive a stipend for the care they provide;
  • Provides for 30 days of annual respite care for caregivers to take time off and take care of their own affairs;
  • Provides health care for caregivers through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs program.

Caregivers of veterans who were injured prior to September 11, 2001, are eligible for support services that include:


  • Training and education;
  • Counseling and mental health services;
  • Respite care including 24 hours in-home respite care;

In addition, the new law provides numerous other improvements to veterans' health care including:


  • Expanded services for women veterans
  • Improved access to care for veterans living in rural areas
  • Improved mental health programs
  • Enhancements to VA health care quality management
  • Strengthen VA's ability to recruit and retain health care providers
  • Increased services for homeless veterans