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Rounds, Durbin Introduce Bill to Help Families of Wounded Warriors

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today introduced legislation to help make certain wounded warriors and their families are fully aware of the services available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) caregiver program. The Caregiver Program Information Improvement Act of 2017 would require the caregiver program to be added to the list of statutorily-mandated counseling items for service members pending separation from the Department of Defense. 

“Our wounded warriors are among the best and bravest our country has to offer,” said Rounds. “Unfortunately, they are often the most vulnerable. Many require around-the-clock care long after their service to our country, placing additional burdens on their loved ones who become their caregivers. The VA has programs in place to assist loved ones with their transition into the caregiver role, but too often we have heard from families that they were unaware of the VA’s caregiver program. Making sure they are fully aware of the support and resources available to them is but one step we can take to ease the challenges of our injured service members and their families, who have sacrificed so much defending our freedoms.”

“America owes each and every veteran a great debt of gratitude,” said Durbin. “The VA Family Caregivers Program proved it can make a difference in the lives of our service members and the dedicated caregivers who made the decision to care for them. Ensuring that every veteran is educated about this program will make countless more families aware of their eligibility for critical homecare services and financial assistance.”

The VA caregiver program allows the VA to provide benefits to eligible caregivers who support a wounded veteran who sustained a serious injury and is in need of personal care services. Services available to caregivers through the program include travel expenses, access to health care insurance, mental health services and counseling, VA caregiver training and a monthly stipend.

In addition to requiring the caregiver program to be added to the list of counseling items, the bill would include:

(1) A requirement that all service members be asked if they have a caregiver at home, and

(2) A requirement for identified caregivers to be invited into appropriate sessions of DOD pre-separation counselling with the transitioning service member in order to facilitate a better understanding not only of the services available to the caregiver but also how the transition will impact the caregiver as well as the service member.

The original VA family caregivers program was created by a Durbin-authored provision in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009, which was enacted in 2010. In recent years, Durbin introduced the VA Family Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act, which expands eligibility for the VA Caregivers program to support veteran caregivers of all service eras. The VA Caregivers program helps ensure that veterans as well as their caregivers receive the support they need and deserve, and significantly outweighs costs associated with alternative, institutionalized care. 

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