By Eric Dehm
It seems arbitrary and, some might say, absurd. If someone became disabled while serving in our military on September 10th 2001, they and their caregiver are not eligible for the same level of support from the government they would be if their disability occurred on or after September 11th.
That line of demarcation may make sense when you first see it. The world, and the mission of the Armed Forces, changed on that day without any doubt. But when you look a little deeper, you might start seeing some problems with the separation.
The main question that comes up is a simple one: Why does someone taking care of a veteran injured and disabled in a non-combat related workplace accident on September 11th deserve more support than the caregiver for someone who suffered the same exact type of injury on an earlier date?
According to Disabled American Veterans (DAV), they don’t.
There’s currently a $3.4 billion plan, the Caring For Our Veterans Act, that would extend those benefits to caregivers of all eras that recently passed a Senate panel, but it is far from a done deal. DAV supports the plan fully and says that there are numerous reasons that Americans should urge congress to push it through.
Dave Riley, the former National Commander of DAV, lost all four of his limbs to a bacterial infection contracted while working as a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer in 1997. His wife Yvonne left a promising career to care for him, and in doing so also stepped away from any retirement benefits she would have earned. Riley says access to the living stipend currently offered only to post 9/11 caregivers would alleviate much of the financial stress many families, including his own, currently face. And he doesn’t understand why we are differently categorizing veterans who made the same life-altering sacrifices.
“Take the Vietnam vets for example,” Riley said during a recent appearance on The Morning Briefing. “They had a slap in the face when they came home and really didn’t get the welcome and now it’s a slap in the face for them to be not eligible for this program. So many people that have served so many years for this country…to slap them in the face because of some arbitrary date? It just doesn’t make sense.”
DAV believes change is past-due and have begun what they call the Unsung Heroes Initiative in order to bring attention to this issue that they believe would be a “no-brainer” if more people knew about it. Along with their belief that it is the right thing to do, DAV says a recent report conducted on caregiver assistance shows that it’s financially beneficial to the government in the long term.
According to their report, DAV estimates that supporting a caregiver costs around $37,000 a year. That’s slightly more than one tenth what a VA nursing home costs annually for an individual. And one third the annual cost of a civilian nursing home.
“Not to say that nursing homes aren’t great, but if you have a family caregiver who can do the job well and be supported in that role,” said DAV Deputy Legislative Director Adrian Atizado, “then I think we can not only save this government money but we can also honor the commitment to these veterans and also take care of those folks, those wives, daughter, parents who are taking care of our nations veterans.
DAV recommends visiting unsungheroesinitative.com to find out more about their report, and for more info on what can be done to assist them in getting this legislation passed.
To hear the full interview with Dave Riley and Adrian Atizado, you can stream immediately from the player below or download to listen anytime by clicking on the share button and then selecting download from the menu options.