More than two million servicemembers have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Over 40,000 have been injured, including 5,500 with severe Traumatic Brain Injury. Family Caregivers are the lifeline, allowing Vets with TBI and other injuries to not only reintegrate back into the community, but to do so in the comfort of their own homes. And now, VA has ramped up support for those Vets and their families.
As of May 9, 2011, post-9/11 Veterans can fill out the Family Caregiver program application for services offered under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. Included are a stipend, mental health services, and access to health care insurance. To be eligible, Vets must have sustained “a serious injury including traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma or other mental disorder incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, on or after September 11, 2001.”
Along with the launch of the application process on Monday, VA and Easter Seals also announced a new partnership—a merger that provides training to Family Caregivers for Vets who choose to receive their care at home. Training will include critical caregiving tips, like pain management, and wellness. Easter Seals and VA recognize the sacrifices family members have made, believing that education and self-care is the key to a healthy success at home. Therefore, training will be offered several ways to fit the Caregivers lifestyle; classroom, web-based, and DVD/workbook. Classroom training will be taught by Easter Seals professionals across the nationwide 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks. Training will began as early as June.
Sarah Wade, a Family Caregiver Advocate whose husband Ted was injured by an IED in Iraq, warns Veterans and Caregivers not to exclude themselves from the program.
“People disqualify themselves, thinking they won’t get accepted and it’s not worth their time,” said Wade. “But they should try to participate. . .they will be the ones to help shape this program.”
In addition to the new program, VA offers two dozen supportive programs to Veterans of all eras. Included in that is the newly established National Caregiver Support Line that has received 6,000 calls since its launch in February. Dr. Robert Petzel, VA Under Secretary for Health, urges Caregivers to look into the available programs and apply for the Family Caregiver program as soon as possible. Stipend payments will be backdated to the day applications are submitted.
Those who care for Veterans with TBI and other mental disorders know the sacrifices they make; they are their Veterans’ doorway to the world. VA and Easter Seals hope to provide each of them and their Veteran with the education and tools to lead a full and satisfying life.
“Caregivers are American heroes,” said Petzel.