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Caring for wounded veterans with traumatic brain injury

One in five service members will return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from some form of traumatic brain injury. Many require not only significant medical care, but also constant supervision. This can be an untold burden on family members who care for them.

In 2009, Senator Daniel Akaka, a Democrat and World War II veteran, introduced a bill to provide services for the caregivers of severely wounded vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A designated caregiver would get training, medical care and ongoing supportive services like counseling, paid time off and a living stipend of about $10 an hour. After a year of heated debate over the bill’s nearly $2 billion price tag, Congress passed the legislation in April of last year, and in May, the president signed it into law.

The program was supposed to begin by the end of January. But the families are still waiting, and the number of caregivers who ultimately get help is likely to be smaller than the president and Congress expected.  We asked Need to Know correspondent Maria Hinojosa to investigate.



  • Dave de Lorge

    VA, you say, has obstructed approval of care givers. Are you sure this is as heartless as you imply? If approval standards were broadened, how many neglectful meth-heads do you think would be qualified.

    I have no connection to VA. I have real sympathy for meth-heads, some of whom are not neglectful.or in anyway malign. Still, criteria implemented by VA must have to do with protecting against unqualified or otherwise inappropriate providers of “care.”

    And you find Sen. Burr an adequate resource? More senseless attacks on govt workers struggling to do the best? Have you asked George and Laura Bush how much they have donated to the non-profits? And who does oversight on those receiving those funds? (If any, might they recommend controls to VA?)

    Did any thought go into the muck you thought you were raking? You are joining in attacking the wrong people. Are you participating in hanging Gen. Shinseki just as he was hung ten years ago?

  • Come on

    Seriously Dave? You’re defending the VA against soldiers who suffered severe injuries because of this incompetent government’s misbegotten war in Iraq? Are you a government plant? All this family wants is basic services to help their son, who fought for this country. His family has given up everything. But because of people like you, they don’t get the help they deserve. Shameful.

  • Lynn McClellan

    My son was injured, tested in Florida, said to have T.B.I. I wrote letters to everyone and was told it was not a war injury and he did not earn a purple heart, ok, they sent me the criteria for purple heart and: it was done by the enemy, it was done during action/war time and he was wearing a uniform, treated and diagnosed by the military, WTF, is this how we treat our veterans. He has been out of service for well over a year and still nothing on his disability, they agree he deserves it, but they are doing paperwork. How many times must he drive to the base over 100 miles away to get copies of his medical records, is there any one in charge who can’t see that this is so wrong. I also know it has and is happening to others who served with my son… All I can say id God Help America

  • Fred

    I am a VA employee, not a ‘plant’, and have worked for both VBA and VHA. As a rating specialist I spent countless hours trying to mold the minds of new rating specialists to ‘grant when you can, deny only if you must’. In my current position I primarily work w/ veterans and their families w/ medical care issues, but am often asked for assistance in preparing claims and/or appeals. There is absolutely no doubt that the vast majority of the veterans and families who are asking for help are deserving, but you would have to be completely naive to not appreciate the rather large numbers who would do/say anything to cheat the government (which is you and me, remember) out of money they don’t deserve. Something has to be done to get this program started, but relaxing the criteria such that anyone can just line up for $$ is not the answer.

  • Kevin

    Your reactions printed above dishearten me. Not only does your comment demonstrate your inability to appreciate the magnitude of the struggle to care for a survivor of a TBI; your preoccupation with “meth-heads”, sanctions the dismissal of your argument. It is people as thoughtless as you are, that make me ashamed to be a citizen of the USA!
    Indeed, the delay of the VA in following the laws of this country also makes me ashamed of at least part of our government. We, the people of the United States that possess at least a modicum of compassion and sense of justice, must stand up and fight for the veterans who have survived a TBI in this country’s two ill-begotten wars! We each need to contact our federal legislature representatives and senators to demand just treatment for our injured heroes.