November 19, 2009

Veteran Caregiver Reform Clears Senate

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., today applauded Senate passage of a sweeping reform bill that will dramatically increase federal support of wounded warriors and the families who care for them.

The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 merged two veterans’ health bills previously approved in committee, including one co-sponsored by Udall that increased technical, financial and practical support to family caregivers of veterans or members of the Armed Forces seriously injured in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The Omnibus bill also will greatly expand health care services for women veterans; provide dental insurance to veterans, survivors, and their dependents; improve quality of care provided to veterans by encouraging highly qualified doctors to serve in hard-to-fill positions in VA medical facilities and improve veterans mental health care services to ease veterans’ transition from active duty to civilian life.

“Families make extraordinary sacrifices to care for loved ones who return home from war unable to live independently,” said Udall. “They often face heart wrenching challenges in trying to balance work, manage their family member’s care, and trying to keep a roof over their heads. I am glad this bill has passed the Senate. These veterans and their families deserve all the support we can offer them. As soldiers, they acted selflessly in defense of our nation and it makes perfect sense to help their families care for them.”

Since September 11, 2001, at least 6,800 veterans and members of the Armed Forces have been injured and are living with disabilities severe enough to require near around the clock care. Many family members stop working outside the home to become primary caregivers. They often do so at great financial and personal sacrifice, while the government is relieved of providing nursing home care, or otherwise paying for care it is obligated to provide.

Over 20 veteran and military organizations have called for passage of the Udall-backed caregiver provisions.