Older American Veterans Benefits Bill
The Veterans First package that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unveiled recently is a multi billion-dollar American Veterans Aid initiative to phase in robust caregiver benefits for older generations of severely injured veterans. These benefits were first enacted in 2010 and were only for the post-9/11 generation.
The pool of pre-9/11-era caregivers likely to be eligible for benefits, if the program is expanded, could be as high as 80,000 the VA reported last year. For these in-home caregivers of thousands of vets with severe physical or mental injuries it would mean:
- cash stipends for their time and effort
- health insurance for caregivers
- guaranteed periods of paid respite to avoid caregiver burnout
- training to enhance patient safety
There are problems that have to addressed in the current program and some want these fixed before it is expanded to older American Veterans. But it has its supporters too — Adrian Atizado, deputy legislative director for Disabled American Veteran whose national service officers field caregiver complaints, says the VA is not solely to blame as Congress underfunded the program.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., prime architect of the caregiver expansion plan, pointed out that this program is about putting veterans’ needs first and supporting the men and women who put their own lives on hold to take care of veterans.
We agree with her that providing American veterans aid should be a priority and should never be a partisan issue.