Langevin Joins Senator Murray to Introduce Legislation to Support Military Caregivers

Apr 22, 2015 Issues: Disabilities, Health Care, Veterans

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) today joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), along with veterans, caregivers and advocates, to introduce the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act, legislation that would improve services and support for family caregivers of military service members and veterans. Langevin’s bill, which is co-sponsored by Congresswomen Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Congressman John Carney (D-DE), is a House companion to legislation introduced by Senator Murray and co-sponsored in the Senate by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

“Our veterans make immeasurable sacrifices in service to our nation, but so do their families and loved ones who provide the day-to-day care and support upon their return. These family caregivers are our nation’s hidden heroes,” said Langevin, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a champion of the Lifespan Respite Care Act. “As someone who lives with a disability, I have a unique appreciation for the personal challenges that family caregivers face on a daily basis. It is our duty to provide veterans and the families that care for them with the resources they need and have rightfully earned in sacrifice to our country, and this legislation helps us to fulfill that enduring promise.”

According to RAND Corporation estimates, military and veteran caregivers provide $13.6 billion in uncompensated care costs annually. These caregivers are often unprepared for their new responsibilities, and the challenges they face can lead to physical, emotional and financial strain. The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act makes veterans of all eras eligible for caregiver support services; extends eligibility to include a wider array of needs that may require caregiving; and expands services available to caregivers, such as child care, financial advice and legal counseling. Among other provisions, the bill also creates a national interagency working group to coordinate caregiver policy and services, and it reauthorizes the Lifespan Respite Care Act, which was originally introduced by Langevin and former Congressman Mike Ferguson and passed into law in 2006.

“As the daughter of a World War Two veteran, I strongly believe that when we ask service members to fight for us, we promise that in return, we will fight for them by providing the best care possible when they come home…Quite often, that care comes from people who are closest to them – spouses, parents, and children – all of whom sacrifice their own jobs and even their own health to look after their loved one who is ill or injured as a result of serving our country,” said Murray. “So while military caregivers don’t necessarily wear uniforms or go overseas, they absolutely serve our country and we should support these hidden heroes by doing whatever we can to make their lives a bit easier.”

“In my home state of Maine there are more than 138,000 heroes who wear the title of veteran. As lawmakers and as Americans we have an obligation to provide these courageous men and women with the most comprehensive and accessible assistance programs available,” said Collins. “Under current law, injured veterans across the country have identified a critical need for additional caregiving services. This bipartisan legislation would provide an increased number of injured veterans and their families with the caregiving assistance they need, while ensuring that these caregivers have access to the support required for quality care.”

“Like the loved ones they support, families of veterans dedicate their lives in service to our country,” said Carney. “We not only owe them a debt of gratitude – we owe them the support and resources they need to care for their relatives who have put their lives on the line for us. This bill takes important steps toward ensuring that we meet our sacred obligation to take care of veterans when they return home.”

“As Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee, I am proud to cosponsor the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act. By making veterans from every era eligible for the VA caregiver program, we will be supporting not only generations of older veterans, but also their family members and loved ones,” said Brownley.

“Our veterans have sacrificed so much serving our country, and they deserve the best treatment. Many veterans receive care at home, as they prefer and deserve, but all too often, family caregivers do not receive the support they need,” said Esty. “I’ve heard from family members across central and northwest Connecticut about the costs of caring for loved ones. We have an obligation to support military families, our country’s hidden heroes. I’m proud to join Rep. Langevin and Senator Murray in introducing the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act, which will expand the VA caregiver program and provide critical mental health services and childcare assistance for our military families.”

The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act is supported by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Military Officers Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Air Force Sergeants Association and National Military Family Association.

“Today marks a significant step forward in our national efforts to improve programs, policies, and services for America’s 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers – the spouses, mothers, fathers, siblings, and other loved ones tirelessly caring for those who cared for us,” said former Senator Elizabeth Dole. “Senator Patty Murray has demonstrated passionate leadership on this issue since day one, and we are proud to work with her on advancing this bipartisan, bicameral bill also championed by Senator Susan Collins and Representative Jim Langevin.”