On July 6, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation teamed with our partners at AARP to keep national leaders focused on supporting military and veteran caregivers. AARP hosted a panel discussion for Members of Congress on critical subpopulations of family caregivers in America. Dole Caregiver Fellow Ann Marie Pacciano spoke on the panel, representing the loved ones caring for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. In her remarks, she imparted the significance of the service provided by military and veteran caregivers, the severity and pervasiveness of the challenges they face, and the difference between caring for a civilian and caring for someone who has served.
Military and veteran caregivers’ representation on AARP’s panel continued the Foundation’s campaign for greater awareness and action from Congress in support of hidden heroes. To date, the Foundation has championed multiple pieces of caregiver and military family legislation, including last year’s $50 million expansion of the VA Caregiver program budget.
During her presentation, Ann Marie shared her personal story of caring for her husband Gary, a 35-year veteran of the Army National Guard. Over the course of Gary’s career, he sustained numerous injuries, including those to his leg and spine. The injuries were so severe that Ann Marie retired early from her much-loved teaching career in order to care for him.
Ann Marie explained how approximately 5.5 million Americans have stories similar to hers, recounting the findings of the Foundation’s RAND report. She highlighted the positive steps Congress has already taken, and urged continued action on critical issues such as more funding for respite care, and eliminating age and relationship requirements for existing caregiver resources.