Durbin Urges Eligible Veterans to Apply for Caregiver Benefits

[SPRINGFIELD, IL] – The families of America’s most seriously wounded warriors who have taken on the enormous task of caring for their loved ones can now apply through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Family Caregiver Program for assistance, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today. The Family Caregiver Program provides technical, financial and practical support to family caregivers of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seriously injured in the line of duty. Earlier this month, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expanded the number of caregivers that are eligible for the program, increasing the pool of eligible veterans to just over 3,500 nationwide.


“On Memorial Day, and every day, we honor the sacrifices of our fallen heroes by keeping our promises to the troops who do come home. Because of the advances of medicine and their own fighting spirit, many soldiers have come home having suffered catastrophic disabilities, often from traumatic brain injuries. That’s why – one year ago – Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Caregivers Act, to provide financial assistance, health care and counseling to family caregivers of service members who have been severely disabled. If you are a family caregiver of a catastrophically disabled veteran from Iraq or Afghanistan, or you know someone who is, call the VA to receive assistance applying,” 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 and directed the VA to begin providing caregiver support by January 30, 2011. In February, Durbin joined the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and a bipartisan group of 16 other Senators in urging the Administration to carry out the law as intended and begin providing services to caregivers of wounded veterans as soon as possible.


On May 3, 2011, the VA submitted their interim final rule which began a 60-day comment period, after which the VA will decide either to make the rule final or to revise it for the final time. Meanwhile, the interim final rule has the force of law and the VA began accepting applications from veterans on May 9, 2011. The VA has currently received 916 applications, including 152 from Illinois.


Benefits to caregivers will begin in July, but will be retroactive to the date of application, reimbursing those days for which the family was providing care. Information outlining the application process is on the VA’s Caregivers website and available via a telephone hotline: 1-877-222 VETS (8387). 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.


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