Family Members Paid To Care for Veterans
Washington, D.C. (July 30, 2009) - Landmark legislation to train family members to provide care for
severely wounded veterans — and pay them for it — was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The bill, HR 3155, the Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act, or CARE Act, also creates
a respite care program for caregivers; expands outreach and education programs for families; extends to caregivers the right
to get mental health counseling; and, for those who do not have their own health insurance, allows coverage under the Veterans
Affairs Department health care program.
The bill, passed by voice vote, is similar
to a bill approved earlier this year by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, putting Congress well down the legislative
path toward providing more assistance to families members who “often make great sacrifices, including giving up their
job, delaying their education or making other significant life-changing sacrifices in order to be by their loved one’s
side,” said Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, chief sponsor of the House bill.
This is a bipartisan
effort. Rep. Steve Buyer of Indiana, ranking Republican on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said caregivers of
wounded warriors “face their own difficulties while learning to deal with stress and emotions, changes in job or family
income, or complex patient care needs that can come with providing care for their loved one.”
While the main emphasis of the bill is taking care of the severely injured, Michaud said it also requires
better training for VA case managers so they can tell families what benefits and assistance are available to them —
something that would help far more veterans and their families.
For caregivers who
receive VA training in providing help to severely injured veterans, the bill holds the promise of financial stipends —
tied to the local rate for professional caregivers — plus lodging and subsistence allowances if a caregiver accompanies
a veteran receiving in-patient treatment at a veterans’ hospital.
Michaud said the
bill probably would not resolve all of the issues facing caregivers, which is why the measure also calls for VA to conduct
a survey to determine what other improvements families may need.