Bill to Assist Caregivers of Veterans With Disabilities Awaits House Action

A recent article in USA Today highlights the stress faced by the families and caregivers of wounded veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the article, at least 160,000 soldiers have suffered a war-related traumatic brain injury, and many more must deal with some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. Although treatment options are available, the day-to-day responsibility of caring for these soldiers often falls on their families and friends, who typically serve without any assistance from the government. A Senate bill, passed in November, would change this and establish a system for training and supporting caregivers of injured veterans. The bill awaits reconciliation with a less-inclusive bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier in 2009.

The Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 includes legislation authorizing the training and supervision of "personal care attendants" for injured veterans. Under the Senate's version of the bill, an eligible caregiver would have to attend a government-funded training program to learn how to provide appropriate in-home care for their loved one. Once the caregiver passes the training program, he or she could register as a personal care attendant and gain access to an entire network of professional assistance, from mental health services to respite care. The personal care attendant would also receive a stipend for his or her services. The Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act also increases funding for medical care specifically for female veterans.

The House passed a much different version of the personal care attendant program as part of a previous Veterans Affairs bill, meaning that the Senate's more inclusive version must now be merged with the House bill. However, the Senate bill has been referred to the House Veterans Affairs committee, and no additional action has been taken as of the new year. Despite this, more than 20 veterans services groups, including the Disabled American Veterans, have vowed to keep the legislation in the forefront of this year's legislative agenda.

To read the full text of the Senate's bill, click here.

Article Last Modified: 02/02/2010