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Esty, Costello Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Support Veteran Caregivers of All Service Eras

Press Release

Reps. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Ryan Costello (R-PA) today introduced legislation to expand the current VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to veterans of all service eras.

Currently, the Program of Comprehensive Assistance to Family Caregivers is only available to veterans injured in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001. Over the next six years, the CARE for All Veterans Act expands the program to serve veterans of all service eras, starting with the veterans most in need.

"Right now, the program to assist family caregivers is only supporting about 20 percent of our veterans and military families," said Rep. Esty. "Connecticut is filled with veterans and family caregivers of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and other eras. Many of them aren't getting the support they need and have talked with me about what a difference it would make to participate in the Family Caregivers program. Like their loved ones who wore the uniform, caregivers make huge sacrifices on behalf of our nation. Let's pass this bipartisan bill and follow through on our commitment to support every veteran and caregiver who has served this country."

"No matter the service era, every veteran in Pennsylvania's Sixth Congressional District made great sacrifices and deserves access to the care they need," said Rep. Costello "Caregivers, who play a critical role in caring for veterans through in-home care services, should be able to rely on the assistance provided through the Department of Veterans' Affairs Caregiver program. This commonsense legislation would increase access to the Caregivers program and help to ensure our veterans are receiving the care they deserve."

"Family caregivers are critical members of a veteran's health care team, and only with their help are many seriously injured or ill veterans able to reintegrate into their communities, remain out of costly institutions and achieve their highest levels of recovery and quality of life," said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Commander Dave Riley. "DAV firmly believes that all disabled veterans have earned the same benefits, regardless of when they served. We applaud Representatives Esty and Representative Costello's efforts to improve caregiver benefits and extend eligibility to all generations of veterans, as they are all equal in our eyes and equally deserving of this much-needed support."

Services provided by the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers include:
* A monthly stipend;
* Travel expenses (including lodging and per diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care);
* Access to health care insurance (if the caregiver is not already entitled to care or services under a health care plan);
* Mental health services and counseling;
* Comprehensive VA Caregiver Training provided by Easter Seals; and
* Respite care (not less than 30 days per year).

A caregiver must be 18 years of age and can be a family member, a friend, or someone who lives with the veteran full time. Often the dedication and time to caring and supporting a veteran in their daily activities can take an emotional and physical toll on the caregiver and loved one, and these support services provide invaluable assistance.

Del. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS), Rep. Tim Ryan(D-OH), Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) are also original cosponsors of the CARE for All Veterans Act.

The 2014 RAND Corporation report "Hidden Heroes: America's Military Caregivers" estimates that there are 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States and that only 20 percent care for post-9/11-era veterans. Meanwhile, the RAND study also notes that "assistance provided by caregivers saves the United States millions of dollars each year in health care costs and allows millions of veterans to live at home rather than in institutions."