Responding to a Rand Corp. report issued last week on challenges facing those who care for ill or injured veterans, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Thursday introduced a bill that would increase federal support for this largely invisible group.
More than 5 million Americans provide care and support for veterans, with 1 million helping ill or injured Iraq and Afghanistan war-era veterans. According to the study, many often do so at great personal sacrifice, experiencing social isolation, income loss and poor health.
Roughly a third do not have health insurance, 62 percent face financial strain as a result of their circumstances, 28 percent left jobs to care for a veteran and nearly 40 percent meet the criteria for symptoms of depression — more than double that of civilian caregivers.
“Our caregivers work extremely hard without any recognition and rarely ask for anything for themselves, a lot like the service member and veterans themselves, who say they are just doing their jobs,” Murray said during a speech on the Senate floor.
The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act, which Murray dubbed the “Hidden Heroes Act” after the Rand report, would broaden the Veterans Affairs Department caregiver program, removing restrictions on who is considered a caregiver for benefit purposes and increasing support for those caring for people with mental health issues.