Caregiver Benefits - Better late than never
April 28th, 2010 by Yellow Rose
The need for caregiver assistance is not new. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act recently passed in both the House and the Senate and President Obama is expected to sign it before Memorial Day. It is a huge bill and includes many of The American Legion’s legislative priorities like improvements for women’s services at VA health care facilities, expanded mental health services, funding to reduce homelessness and better support for caregivers of disabled veterans. You can find other provisions of the bill here. While all are important areas of concern there is one that struck home for me. The part that “furnishes family caregiver assistance to family members of veterans in need of personal care services due to a serious injury incurred or aggravated during active duty on or after September 11, 2001”. (I have a personal issue with the date but I guess it is a good beginning and I hope that getting all the bureaucrats involved is a blessing and not a hindrance) But on to my story. There once was a couple named John and Bunny. They came from a Midwestern background; John was the oldest son of a farmer and Bunny the daughter of a grocer. They met, they fell in love, it was the 40’s. John was inducted into the Army June 13, 1941, even though he was 33 years old. While home on leave, he and Bunny eloped. Bunny’s family was not pleased. But they loved each other. John went back on duty and eventually was sent to the Pacific. Not good. No, John was not wounded, at least not on the outside. The wounds were on the inside. John had asthma which the conditions in the Pacific only made worse until while as a patient at the North Sector General Hospital it was determined he was unfit for duty. So at age 35, John came home to his wife with a chronic condition that would dictate how he lived the rest of his life. He came home to his Midwestern town and was an asset to his community. He had a good office job helping other veterans as the County Veterans Affairs Officer. He and Bunny had three children. Life was good. For awhile. Nobody knows why, but John developed a drinking problem, eventually lost his job forcing his family to move to a new town where he could maybe find employment. By the early 60’s John’s health had deteriorated to the point where he had a lung removed and was declared a 100% disabled veteran. Well great, this made him eligible for VA benefits, social security benefits, and the associated benefits for his wife and kids. They would all be taken care of. Sort of. John and his family moved back to his hometown, He never worked again. For the next 8 years his wife took care of him as he gradually became housebound. Day and night. 365 days a year. Meals, meds, sponge baths, bedpans. The only respite she got was when he was in the hospital. Their friends stop coming by after awhile. Then even the relatives stop coming by. The kids don’t have their friends over either. It finally is over. John dies in 1971 at the age of 63, 30 years after he pledged to serve his country to the best of his ability. Bunny followed him just three years later. She was tired and she missed him and she loved him. Now that was a long time ago. I tell you this story because I don’t want it to EVER happen to a family again. I am sure that there are Korean and Vietnam veterans that are just like John, with their spouses as caregivers. Find these veterans and offer them some help. I know that today is a lot better than the 60’s with home health care, etc. etc. but see if the caretaker needs a break. Or maybe just some company. This is our mission, to help the veteran and his family. GO DO IT. When President Obama signs the VA caregiver bill it will be a great day.
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