Veterans organizations, congressional partners push for expanded caregiver benefits in Washington

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On Dec. 6, DAV alongside the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Paid Leave in the U.S. delivered a petition to members of Congress, containing more than 182,000 signatures from supporters of caregiver expansion legislation.

S. 2193—Caring for our Veterans Act of 2017— which has passed through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, is a comprehensive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care bill, which includes provisions to overhaul the agency’s community care program and provide additional funds to improve the VA health care system. However, it also includes a critical provision that would extend comprehensive VA caregiver benefits to severely injured veterans with no arbitrary cutoff date.

The provision would immediately expand eligibility to severely injured veterans on or before May 7, 1975, and mandate full expansion to veterans of all eras within a two year window.

Sen. Patty Murray, Senate VA Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester, House VA Committee Ranking Member Tim Walz, Rep. Ryan Costello and Rep. Jim Langevin also attended the event to urge their colleagues to support the legislation.

“Enacting this legislation would be life-changing for countless veterans and caregivers across the country, affording them the opportunity to remain in their homes and enabling them to have the best possible quality of life,” said DAV Past National Commander and quadruple amputee Dave Riley who attended the event beside his wife and caregiver, Yvonne. “We urge continued bipartisan support to get this bill passed, as it stands to vastly improve the lives of the nation’s veterans and America’s unsung heroes—their caregivers.”

“It’s impossible to overstate the value of having a family member or loved one by your side while overcoming an illness or coping with an injury,” said Senator Patty Murray, who sponsored expansion legislation in the Senate. “The sacrifices they make to provide vital day-to-day care for our veterans often goes unnoticed. Taking care of our veterans means taking care of those who make their recovery possible.”

Based on current law, the VA is prohibited from providing comprehensive support for caregivers of veterans severely disabled before Sept. 11, 2001. Many of them are now aging and their caregivers’ ability to continue in their role is compromised—access to comprehensive assistance would help sustain their efforts. Additionally, supporting family caregivers can be less costly to the federal government than treating veterans through institution-based options.

“Every day, hundreds of thousands of caregivers are providing unmatched care that allow the nation’s most seriously injured veterans to remain in their homes and out of nursing homes, giving them a chance at better health and a better quality of life,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “For caregivers who do so, they often work without assistance and without the benefit of comprehensive support.”

In June 2017, DAV released a report on caregivers, “America’s Unsung Heroes” because much of the American public is not aware of the dedication and sacrifices caregivers make supporting our nation’s heroes. Most caregivers go unrecognized and their needs are not met.

View the full report and learn more at