June 18, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI), Mike Michaud (D-ME) and Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) today introduced legislation to improve services and support for family caregivers of military service members and veterans. This bill, a House companion to legislation introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), follows the release of a RAND Corporation report commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation outlining the many challenges faced by America’s military and veteran caregivers.
“Family caregivers provide critical care and support to their ill, injured and disabled loved ones. This care often goes unrecognized and comes at great personal and financial expense,” said Rep. Langevin, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a champion of Lifespan Respite Care Programs for caregivers. “As the health care needs of our returning service members and veterans grow, so too grow the strains on their caregivers. It is our duty to provide our nation’s heroes and the families that care for them with the resources they need and have rightfully earned in sacrifice to our country.”
“Veterans sacrifice a great deal for our nation – but so too do their families and loved ones. We have an obligation to take care of our veterans, and that includes having the backs of their family members whose sacrifices continue long after their loved ones return from active duty service,” said Rep. Mike Michaud, Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Family and friends of our veterans often put their own lives on hold to care for their loved one. They deserve our gratitude and support, and they deserve to know that we are always looking out for them.”
“Our veterans have sacrificed so much serving our country, and they deserve the best treatment,” said Rep. Elizabeth Esty. “I’ve heard from family members across my district about the rising costs they face caring for loved ones. Unfortunately, family caregivers often do not get the support they need. I’m proud to join Reps. Langevin and Michaud in introducing the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act, which includes my bill, the Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act that expands participation in the VA caregiver program to veterans from all generations with a serious service-connected disability. This bill also includes important mental health services and childcare assistance, which will go a long way in making sure that our military families have the support and care they deserve.”
According to RAND Corporation estimates based on previously available data, military and veteran caregivers provide $13.6 billion in annual uncompensated care costs. These caregivers are often unprepared for their new responsibilities, and the challenges they face are daunting, from employment difficulties and financial challenges to depression and strains on family relationships.
The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act makes veterans of all eras eligible for caregiver support services; extends eligibility to include a wider array of needs that may require caregiving; and expands services available to caregivers, such as child care, financial advice and legal counseling. Among other provisions, the bill also creates a national interagency working group to coordinate caregiver policy and services, and it reauthorizes the Lifespan Respite Care Act, which was originally introduced by Langevin and former Congressman Mike Ferguson and passed into law in 2006.
“My foundation commissioned the RAND Corporation to conduct the first nationwide, comprehensive study of military and veteran caregivers to ensure that solutions developed by our coalition partners directly address the challenges faced by our nation’s Hidden Heroes,” said Senator Elizabeth Dole. “I am truly grateful that Representatives Langevin, Michaud and Esty have introduced legislation in the House that directly responds to some of the most pressing needs outlined in the report. I’m hopeful their action on this critical issue, in concert with the early leadership of Senator Murray in developing the legislation and introducing it in the Senate, will encourage others in Congress to sign on to our efforts to raise awareness and provide holistic, collaborative solutions.”