Durbin: Legislation Supporting Families of Severely Disabled Service Members Approved by Congress

Durbin authored provision establishes program to train and support family caregivers

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that legislation to provide essential support services to family caregivers of severely disabled veterans was unanimously approved by Congress.  The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 includes a Durbin-authored provision that 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.  Durbin’s legislation was first introduced in March 2009 with Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM) as cosponsors.  The bill will now go to the President for his signature.

“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. “Family members 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. Today, Congress chose to stand behind these brave men and women who make enormous sacrifices to care for their loved ones.”

Since September 11, 2001, approximately 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 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 would:

  • Require training of family caregivers at government expense;
  • Allow family caregivers to receive a stipend for the care they provide;
  • Provide for 30 days of annual respite care for caregivers to take time off and take care of their own affairs; 
  • Provide 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;
  • Information on the support services available to caregivers through other public, private, and non-profit agencies.