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Law Makes VA Treat Some Family Caregivers Better T…

Caregivers for older, injured veterans receive less government assistance under current law than those injured after 9/11, The Washington Post reports.

Under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, those who assist veterans wounded after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 can receive stipends, training and other benefits not provided to caregivers of vets wounded before 9/11.

Veterans service organization Disabled Americans Veterans is set to release a report on Monday detailing the lack of help.

“To qualify as a caregiver, individuals must be at least 18 years of age and either a member of a veteran’s extended family or live with the veteran full time,” reads a report from the Congressional Budget Office.

“Stipends are paid monthly and are based on the hours of daily care the veteran requires and the prevailing wage for home health aides. In 2015, stipends paid under the program ranged from $7,700 to $29,000 on an annual basis, and averaged roughly $15,600.”

For Jason Courneen, whose wife Alexis suffered traumatic brain injury while serving with the Coast Guard, “we had no case management, and I felt like we had no ally within the VA system we could turn to,” he told The Post.

“It was a pretty isolating, frustrating, and lonely feeling — for both of us. My career opportunities have been limited. I have always had to balance providing for my family and caring for Alexis and our girls.”

Dennis Joyner, Vietnam veteran who lost both legs and his arm below the elbow, told The Post his “wife resigned from her full time administrative assistant position to provide total care for me.”

He added that “due to her resignation, our income was substantially decreased, and she lost her retirement benefits, and her Social Security has been drastically effected. If she received caregiver funding, it would help replace the loss of her career to care for me. She also would be eligible for training in areas necessary to provide daily assistance for me.”

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said in a Senate hearing last week that increasing assistance for elderly veterans could actually save the department money in the long run by allowing the vets to stay in their homes rather than move into an assisted living facility.

“We hope by expanding caregiver benefits, particularly to older veterans, [who] today aren’t getting the benefit the way that they should, that we actually find that’s going to be cost-effective because remember, we pay for long-term care,” Shulkin said. 

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