Shea-Porter Co-Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Support Veteran Caregivers
WASHINGTON, DC— Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today co-introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to expand veteran caregiver support services. The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act would extend critical support services, such as monthly stipends and travel expense reimbursement to caregivers of all veterans. Currently, these benefits are only available to caregivers of post-9/11 veterans.
“The family members who make sacrifices each day to care for those who have served are helping both our veterans and our nation. We owe a great debt to all veterans and their families, and we should recognize that by providing these hardworking caregivers with the support they deserve,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter.
Many veterans rely on caregivers to provide essential support services, such as communicating with the veteran’s health care team, helping with daily routines, and managing medication. Providing these services can be difficult for caregivers, and family members are not always prepared to take on these responsibilities. This has led to higher rates of depression and financial difficulty among caregivers.
New Hampshire veteran Michael Negrete, a Member of the Board of Directors of Paralyzed Veterans of America, New England Chapter, has experienced and seen firsthand how caregivers are essential in providing support and services to New Hampshire’s veterans. As a post-9/11 veteran, Mr. Negrete and his wife currently benefit from caregiver support services.
“I strongly support Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s bill, as a quadriplegic veteran with spinal cord injury, I personally know how critically important caregivers are in making sure our veterans receive the care they need. So many of us prefer to receive medical care at home with our families, and caregiver support services make this possible. We need to expand these services so that all veterans, regardless of when they served, have access to these vital support services. Not doing so diminishes their service and sacrifice to our country," said Mr. Negrete.
Michelle Pelletier is a registered nurse at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton. She has seen firsthand how caregivers are essential in providing support and services to New Hampshire’s veterans. As someone who works with veterans every day in a long-term care environment, she understands that without family caregiver support, many veterans would require long-term care services, which are often far more expensive.
“New Hampshire’s veterans’ caregivers do so much for those who have served, including coordinating transportation to and from doctor’s visits, administering medication, and providing critical in-home services. All of us who care for veterans see how VA support for these family members helps them better serve our heroes,” said Ms. Pelletier.
Shea-Porter is co-introducing the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act with sponsor Rep. Jim Langevin (RI-02), and its Senate companion is being sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). The legislation has been endorsed by the Military Officers Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
In 2010, Congress enacted legislation to provide new benefits to eligible caregivers for post 9/11 veterans. These new benefits included a monthly stipend, travel expenses, and access to health care insurance for uninsured caregivers. The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act would expand access to these benefits to caregivers to all veterans. Specifically, the legislation:
- Makes veterans of all eras eligible for the full range of caregiver support services by phasing-in veterans based on need, allowing the VA to manage the new workload and keep service quality high.
- Allows veterans in the VA caregiver program to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their dependents in recognition of the fact that a spouse, who may have been unemployed or underemployed previously, may now be required to become the primary source of income for the family. Injured veterans should not be penalized because their injury occurred early in their service, so this provision exempts the veteran from the length of service requirement that would currently bar them from transferring these benefits.
- Expands eligibility for the VA caregivers program by including a wider array of needs which may require caregiving; places greater emphasis on mental health injuries and TBI; and removes restrictions on who is eligible to become a caregiver.
- Expands services available to caregivers by making them eligible for VA child care programs, or providing a stipend to offset the cost of child care; provides caregiver financial advice and legal counseling.
- Creates a national interagency working group to coordinate caregiver policy and services among the different departments and to establish standards of care and oversight mechanisms to ensure the quality of care received through private services.
- Allows the federal government to meet the unique needs of employees who are caregivers with flexible work arrangements so they can stay employed while caring for the veteran.
- Reauthorizes the Lifespan Respite Care Act and expands essential respite options for caregivers.
- Reflects many of the findings and recommendations of RAND Corporation’s Hidden Heroes: America’s Military Caregivers study to improve and expand the VA caregiver program.