Salute to Spouses Blog

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Help for veteran caregivers

Finally, we matter.

For decades, wives, siblings, parents and others have shouldered the extremely heavy weight of caring for injured veterans with little to no help from the military or the federal government.

It seems that the Department of Veterans Affairs may finally have heard our pleas.

Last week the VA announced that it would open a research center for military veteran care givers issues.

Currently the VA provides some caregiver training and offers some pay to family members who have to put their own careers on hold to care for an injured veteran, money paid for out of a budget of more than $500 million. But that fund is hard to access and difficult to qualify for though.

And there are a lot of us who care for our veterans in very different ways.

Some severely injured veterans need 24 hour care. Others are in and out of surgery, leaving families with unpredictable income levels.

Many, like my own husband, sustained injuries serious enough to cause constant pain and require weekly doctor’s visits, sometimes more than one a week. But, are still well enough to be able to hold a job.

The strain of the injury, the overwhelming pain and the stress of trying to continue to work means that when he comes home at night, he goes straight to bed. Weekends are spent bogged down by heavy medication and frequent surgeries leave our financial bottom line questionable.

It also means I have to not only care for my veteran when he is in too much pain to function, but also maintain my fulltime job regardless of his needs, care for our children, our household chores and ferry him back and forth to surgeries. The last one was 92 miles away and nurses required me to be there every morning for four days, with all of our kids in tow.

When he retired I felt like a chain had been lifted and it was my turn to return to my career and grow. Unfortunately my growth has been stagnated again by continued requirements of the military and to caring for my now injured soldier.

There are many spouses like me out there. We have husbands who are broken enough to require constant care that impacts our entire household. But we don’t have husbands injured enough to qualify for any level of assistance – monetary or otherwise.

We are completely alone. And some of us are near broken by the strain.

I’ve told my husband’s doctors, you may save his life, but in doing so, you are ending mine. My own health has suffered, physically and mentally.

The military estimates that there are nearly 5.5 million military veteran caregivers. It is time they start paying attention to us, and the exhaustion caused by the weight of caring for injured veterans and the damage it is causing.

For Military Spouses
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