House Passes Bill to Train, Help Caregivers

The bill, passed by voice vote, is similar to a bill approved earlier this year by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, putting Congress well down the legislative path toward providing more assistance to families members who “often make great sacrifices, including giving up their job, delaying their education or making other significant life-changing sacrifices in order to be by their loved one’s side,” said Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, chief sponsor of the House bill.

This is a bipartisan effort. Rep. Steve Buyer of Indiana, ranking Republican on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said caregivers of wounded warriors “face their own difficulties while learning to deal with stress and emotions, changes in job or family income, or complex patient care needs that can come with providing care for their loved one.”

While the main emphasis of the bill is taking care of the severely injured, Michaud said it also requires better training for VA case managers so they can tell families what benefits and assistance are available to them — something that would help far more veterans and their families.

For caregivers who receive VA training in providing help to severely injured veterans, the bill holds the promise of financial stipends — tied to the local rate for professional caregivers — plus lodging and subsistence allowances if a caregiver accompanies a veteran receiving in-patient treatment at a veterans’ hospital.

Michaud said the bill probably would not resolve all of the issues facing caregivers, which is why the measure also calls for VA to conduct a survey to determine what other improvements families may need.

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