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April 22, 2015

Sen. Murray, Sen. Collins, Rep. Langevin Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Military Caregivers

Sen. Murray, Sen. Collins, Rep. Langevin Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Military Caregivers
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Legislation provides resources to caregivers who care for wounded, ill, and injured veterans

 Bill reflects many recommendations of RAND study revealing the challenges faced by caregivers

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) was joined by veterans, caregivers, and advocates as she introduced legislation to help those who care for wounded, ill, or injured veterans. The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act would expand the types of resources available to family members who have taken on a caregiver role. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) is also an original cosponsor, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is the lead Republican on the Senate bill.

A RAND study, commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, released last year shed light on the physical, emotional and financial challenges military and veteran caregivers face, including greater rates of depression, divorce and financial difficulty.

“As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I strongly believe that when we ask service members to fight for us, we promise that in return, we will fight for them by providing the best care possible when they come home…Quite often, that care comes from people who are closest to them – spouses, parents, and children – all of whom sacrifice their own jobs and even their own health to look after their loved one who is ill or injured as a result of serving our country,” said Senator Murray. “So while military caregivers don’t necessarily wear uniforms or go overseas, they absolutely serve our country and we should support these hidden heroes by doing whatever we can to make their lives a bit easier.”

“In my home state of Maine there are more than 138,000 heroes who wear the title of veteran. As lawmakers and as Americans we have an obligation to provide these courageous men and women with the most comprehensive and accessible assistance programs available,” said Senator Collins. “Under current law, injured veterans across the country have identified a critical need for additional caregiving services. This bipartisan legislation would provide an increased number of injured veterans and their families with the caregiving assistance they need, while ensuring that these caregivers have access to the support required for quality care.”

“Our veterans make immeasurable sacrifices in service to our nation, but so do their families and loved ones who provide the day-to-day care and support upon their return. These family caregivers are our nation’s hidden heroes,” said Congressman Jim Langevin, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a champion of the Lifespan Respite Care Act. “As someone who lives with a disability, I have a unique appreciation for the personal challenges that family caregivers face on a daily basis. It is our duty to provide veterans and the families that care for them with the resources they need and have rightfully earned in sacrifice to our country, and this legislation helps us to fulfill that enduring promise.”

“Today marks a significant step forward in our national efforts to improve programs, policies, and services for America’s 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers—the spouses, mothers, fathers, siblings, and other loved ones tirelessly caring for those who cared for us,” said Senator Elizabeth Dole, founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “Senator Patty Murray has demonstrated passionate leadership on this issue since day one, and we are proud to work with her on advancing this bipartisan, bicameral bill also championed by Senator Susan Collins and Representative Jim Langevin.”

The legislation introduced today would expand upon the Department of Veterans Affairs’ current caregiver services program.

Among other things, the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act would:

  • Make veterans of all eras eligible for caregiver support services
  • Make the program more inclusive of mental health injuries
  • Give veterans the opportunity to transfer GI Bill benefits to a dependent, to help unemployed or underemployed spouses of injured veterans prepare to become the primary income for the family.
  • Make caregivers who work in the federal government eligible for flexible work schedules
  • Provide assistance with childcare, financial advice and legal counseling, which are all top, and currently unmet, needs

(Access a one-pager on the bill here.)

List of groups supporting the Military and Veterans Caregiver Services Improvement Act:

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation

Military Officers Association of America

Veterans of Foreign Wars

Paralyzed Veterans of America

Military Order of the Purple Heart

Wounded Warrior Project

Air Force Sergeants Association

National Military Family Association