Veteran Adam Wilner served 24 years in the Marine Corps and retired in 2017. Today, following deployments, injuries, surgeries and disabilities, Adam and his wife Bobbie are finding relief through the VA Caregiver Support Program at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System.
In the Marines, Wilner served as a communications security specialist, martial arts program instructor ,and recruiter. He and Bobbie married in 1999. They have one daughter, Sonya, and a four-year-old granddaughter.
During Adam’s military career, the Wilners moved 11 times, with five permanent changes of station and several deployments. While that rate of change can challenge even the strongest families, Bobbie was ready.
“Both of my parents are former Marines. Being a sergeant major’s daughter certainly prepared me for a Marine family of my own. It gave me the ability to adapt to new situations and places,” she says. “Our relationship has weathered and thrived throughout deployments, floats, work-ups, schools, recruiting duty, injuries, surgeries, a house fire and retirement. While our new normal isn’t what we would have chosen for ourselves, we both are adapting and trying our best to make the most of it.”
“Decided to give it a shot”
One of the most difficult adjustments came after Adam’s retirement. He had several service-connected disabilities, including a degenerative disk disorder that led to two spinal fusion surgeries, PTSD, and migraine headaches. Because he was unable to perform many day-to-day activities, Bobbie became his full-time caregiver. She researched support options and discovered the VA Caregiver Support program.
“When we learned of the program, friends had told us that it was too difficult to be accepted into. But we decided to give it a shot.”
For Bobbie, the caregiver support program “has been an integral part of my ability to care for my husband, as it not only helps to offset my loss of income, but it empowers me to be a better caregiver through educational resources and the aid of my support coordinator.”
Enhanced services for eligible participants may include a financial stipend, access to health care insurance, mental health services and counseling, caregiver training and respite care.
“The program provides me opportunities to learn more about my husband’s health conditions as well as how to better care for him and myself in the process,” says Bobbie. “It gives me access to information I may not otherwise have about caregiving and the benefit of other caregivers’ experiences. I know that when issues arise, our coordinator is there, ready to help, which is a great source of comfort.”
Bottom line: Apply
The Wilners have a simple message for Veterans and their families who are unsure if they qualify or if the program is right for them: apply.
“It’s worth the time and effort,” says Bobbie. “When we [as caregivers] are empowered, we can provide quality care to our Vets and in the end, that’s what it’s all about.”
Caregiver support coordinators are available at every VA medical center to help Veterans and their caregivers with the application process. Help is also available at 1-877-222 VETS (8387) and www.caregiver.va.gov/.
John Archiquette is a public affairs specialist for the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System.