Caregivers of Vets Deserve These Proposed Perks

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If you’re a caregiver of a veteran wounded before 9/11 you receive no stipend from the Veteran Affairs administration (VA), no health care and no mental health help. And if you receive the Defense Department’s monthly caregiver stipend for active duty service members, you are subject to taxes.

But a new bill offered this month by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.) would change that and so much more.

The Military and Veterans Caregiver Services Improvement Act (or “Hidden Heroes Act”) of 2014 offers a series of life changing improvements to assist the caregivers of wounded warriors of all eras. It fixes inequities and gives us boosts where we need it most.

As of right now, for example, full time caregivers are given a stipend by the VA that is not taxed. But a similar one known as Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL) given to the caregiver, often the spouse, of those still on active duty is taxable. This should be tax-free and should include mental health services, which it currently does not. But the bill would change that.

Another big change in the bill would influence how wounded warriors can use their GI Bills. Right now active duty service members must meet certain years-in-service requirements and incur an additional service obligation if they transfer their GI Bill benefit to a spouse or children. But the Murray bill would allow those who injured in action to transfer their bills without those requirements or obligations.

Another fix would give caregivers a childcare stipend so they could afford respite time without their children.

But, in my eyes, the biggest fix is to the VA Caregiver Program. Right now that program applies only to post-9/11 caregivers. It gives them a monthly stipend, mental health services and ChampVA insurance coverage. The Murray bill opens it up to all caregivers from every military era, men and women who have been living this life for decades without any support.

Caregivers are at major risk for burn out and depression thanks to the constant nature of their “jobs” with their service member. But this bill would make life for these men and women just a little easier. That’s something we owe them.

Cheryl Gansner is the wife of a wounded veteran that was injured on July 28th, 2006 in Kirkuk, Iraq. Bryan and Cheryl have been married for eight years and have one daughter. Cheryl has her bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is the Program Coordinator for Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor Program. Hearts of Valor serves caregivers of wounded, ill or injured service members post 9/11. For more information on Cheryl check out her blog at www.wifeofawoundedsoldier.com.

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  • Sara Holland

    I was the full time care giver for my husband from March 2010 until he passed May 25 2012. I did not even know that there was a possibility of getting a stipend from the VA until January of 2012. We struggled along relying on God to get us through from month to month, used our savings to pay for the trips to the doctors and hospitals.

    My health declined to the point that I am now disabled and fighting for my benefits from Social Security. I am about to lose my home, have sold most things of value to pay off debts incurred during his illness and mine and all I can say is it is about time they figure out that we need help to take care of our disabled Veterans!!

  • Wayne Perry

    I believe our first priority besides for national security is to those who gave more and their families. Those who gave more years (enough for retirement) or who gave part (if not all) of their life. Including mentally.

  • Ken

    It should be a wish and an obligation to make the military personnel and their families as whole as possible: physically, mentally, and financially.

  • Amber

    I was shocked when I found out that we couldn’t transfer Will’s GI Bill to the girls – I really hope this gets changed. He reenlisted 3 times, obviously he was in it for the long haul before his TBI. (Hi Cheryl!)

  • Ray Metcalf

    I would like to find out what Bill is in committee that will allow vets care giver status prior to the 211 bombings. Am a VietNam Vet and my wife has to take care of me almost full time due to injures sustained during service. Yet we do not qualify because we were not in the Gulf War. There are many Viet Vets and WWII vets that also need this service. So how do we get it?