Volume 18, No. 3, Summer 2010
By Congressman Bill Delahunt
On May 5 President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act into law. This new law is designed to help millions of veterans get access to care by offering services and benefits to their caregivers, including a financial stipend for those caring outside the system for severely wounded veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today so many of our veterans find themselves being cared for by spouses, friends and other veterans in home-based settings. All of this is done without any financial help or support…often at great cost and individual sacrifice.
The law recognizes that the assistance of these caregivers to the millions of our veterans in our communities is vitally important.
A caregiver is defined as a family member or non-family member who lives with, and has taken on the responsibility of caring for, a severely wounded veteran.
Caregiving can be a heavy burden which exacts a heavy physical, emotional, and psychological toll that often makes it difficult to maintain a full-time job or pursue a career.
Often those who do manage to remain employed full-time give up opportunities such as job advancement due to unforeseen absences that come with being a caregiver. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that over 40 percent of caregivers really have no choice when taking on that role.
The new law recognizes the importance of home-based care to our veterans. And it attempts to compensate those who provide it with financial resources and benefits that help ease the financial burdens incurred from the care of those wounded during service to our country.
Benefits include—but are not limited to—training and education, respite case counseling and mental health services, healthcare and a monthly stipend. Although all of these new services are important, the most notable benefit is the monetary stipend. It serves as reimbursement for the care that is provided, and allows caregivers to do this work, which until now has been unpaid and often on an ad-hoc basis.
Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs has not yet determined the amount of the stipend, but they are required to submit an implementation plan to Congress within 180 days for approval by the end of this year. The VA has indicated that it will not be a flat rate, but based on the degree of personal care the veteran requires. Further, they have stated that it will not be less than the amount paid for commercial healthcare in the local geographic area.
In the coming months, I will continue to keep you informed as details unfold. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact my local offices toll free at 1-800-870-2626 on the Cape & Islands and 1-800-794-9911 on the South Shore. Or check my congressional website for updates at http://delahunt.house.gov.
This new law will help address the changing needs of our veterans and their families. We must do all we can to help ease the hardships and sacrifices that must be faced during an extensive recovery period, not only for the damaged veterans as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan, but for their families and loved ones as well.