Caregivers for veterans to receive aid under law

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Extra help is on the way for family members who give up their jobs to become caregivers for severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, courtesy of a bill signed Wednesday by President Obama.

The bill, estimated to cost $3.7 billion over five years, also expands veterans care for women, the homeless and those who live in rural areas.

Standing behind Obama at the White House signing was Ted Wade, 32, who lost his right arm and sustained a traumatic brain injury in a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2004 while serving with the 82nd Airborne Division. Wade smiled and grasped the hand of his wife, Sarah, as she wiped a tear.

“These caregivers put their own lives on hold, their own careers and dreams aside, to care for a loved one,” Obama said. “They do it every day around the clock. As Sarah can tell you, it’s hard physically and it’s hard emotionally. It’s certainly hard financially.”

The Wades lobbied for the legislation on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, one of several veterans service organizations that pushed for more support for caregivers out of concern that the wounded were going to institutions because parents, spouses and other family members couldn’t afford to take care of them.

Under the bill, caregivers of the estimated 2,000 severely wounded veterans from the recent conflicts are eligible for training, a monthly stipend and health care.

Caregivers of veterans from other eras receive more limited benefits.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., sponsored the part of the law dealing with care in rural areas.

Tester and other members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony Wednesday from Karen Bohlinger, wife of Montana Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and mother of a veteran who suffered traumatic brain injury in Iraq.

“What does my son miss the most?” Karen Bohlinger said. “Just working. He’s a Montanan. He wants to work.”