Caregivers who serve veterans and other members within service-connected communities are everyday heroes who continue to serve and fight the vagaries of wartime experiences long after they have returned home. The heroic caregivers — 90% of whom happen to be women – face countless stressors, to include anxiety, exhaustion, and fatigue. These wounds all emanating from caring for those stricken with visible and invisible scars.
Thankfully, the Veterans Administration offers a comprehensive support program to address the needs of Veteran Caregivers. They understand the vital role that Veteran caregivers play in caring for the Veterans at home or in their communities.
The VA has two programs for caregivers: The Program of General Caregiver Support Services (eligible Veterans all eras) and the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (eligible post-9/11 Veterans). Often people do not identify themselves as a “caregiver.” However, caregivers can be daughters, wives, husbands, sons, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, partners and friends. Caregivers manage a wide range of responsibilities.
Here’s how you know if you are in a caregiver role.
Consider the following: Are you a person who assists a Veteran on a daily basis who needs help to do any of the following:
- Make medical appointments or drive to the doctor?
- Drive to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions?
- Get dressed, take a shower, or take medication?
- Get in and out of bed?
- Complete physical therapy or give injections?
- Feed self, with feeding tubes or complete similar procedures at home?
- Talk with doctors, nurses, social workers, and others to understand about their medical care or
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are indeed a Veteran Caregiver, and you may be eligible for caregiver services at VA. Each VA Medical Center has a Caregiver Support Coordinator available to assist you with enrolling in these programs. For help, contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator using the Caregiver Support Coordinator search tool, or call the VA Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 (toll free 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET).
Additionally, Veteran Caregivers also may avail themselves of the immense resources provided by many military and veteran nonprofits, such as Soldiers’ Angels and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation who dutifully answer the call to support these caregivers and increase the quality of life for Veterans, their families and service-connected communities.
However, even with the help of the Veterans Administration and the diligent efforts of beneficent actors within the nonprofit community, recent studies and reports reveal that the need for Veteran Caregiver support is as needed now as it has ever been. For instance, of Veteran Caregivers, over 3 million are faced with the simultaneous responsibilities of having to raise children while also prosecuting their Caregiver activities. Additionally, of all post-9/11 caregivers, 50% report lack of a support network to help with their caregiving. To exacerbate this reality, it has been reported that there has been a marked increase in incidences of military spouse suicides.
Families of wounded warriors often have to juggle the competing demands of caring for offspring as well as the healthcare requirements of the combat-wounded veteran. Important recent research attests to the deleterious effect on the overall health, behavioral development and well-being of children whose parents have military-related injuries. Among other observations, it was noted that children in these households suffered negative changes across a broad spectrum of measurable focus areas in the two years following a military injury. Examples include cases of maltreatment, injuries, and an increased instance of being prescribed psychiatric medication. In summary, research indicated that Veteran Caregiver families were found as a group to be living far too close to crisis.
Citing this crucial need for additional avenues of support for military caregivers, the Soldiers’ Angels, a national nonprofit that provides aid and comfort to service-connected communities, launched the “Women of Valor program,” which focuses on helping women who are post-9/11 military caregivers. Soldier’s Angels stipulates that caregivers may be any female relative of the wounded hero. The organization’s dedicated volunteers — known as “Angels” — for the value they provide across the nation — offer support, encouragement and love to family caregivers. For example, over the course of each calendar year, Soldier’s Angels ensures that each and every caregiver in their Women of Valor program receive personalized cards, letters, care packages and small gifts. Our Angel volunteers provide support throughout the year, but, in many cases, friendships develop that could last a lifetime.
In addition to the personal connection, Soldier’s Angels provides informative and helpful educational and reference materials to the caregivers, selected by experts in the field. It is the desire of Soldier’s Angels to let these incredible women know in no uncertain terms that they have a team at their side that they can count on during some of the most difficult times in their lives.
Caregivers comprise an invaluable component of the fabric of American society —and they deserve our nation’s unending gratitude, support and reverence — just like the noble veterans that so heroically serve.