Jim and his wife care for their veteran daughter since she was in a car accident while stationed in Italy as an Army Captain. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for almost a year. Their daughter now needs 24/7 care. She has a feeding tube, has challenges with swallowing, needs help with all her activities of daily living, and spends most of her days either in her power wheelchair or in her bed.
They have 4-5 full-time paid caregivers who help provide around-the-clock care. Jim says that if it weren’t for military benefits, they would be bankrupt. Their daughter officially retired four years ago and is in the Veteran Directed Care Program. This program has funds dedicated to paying for paid caregivers. The program pays for about half of their daughter’s annual $150,000 caregiver expenses and her retirement money pays for the other half. Jim feels the VA is a good institution and is helpful in many areas, however, he said it can be very frustrating at times for families to have to ask for supportive services more than once. Eventually the VA agrees to the services, but only if the family is persistent.
The Veteran Directed Care Program is a program that addresses the broader topic of caregiving. It allows the family to hire caregiver(s) to help in the care of their veteran family member. The family provides training on how to provide the care they want the veteran to receive, and the result is personalized medicine for the person receiving support. Jim said these caregiving jobs pay between $15-20 per hour, and the care provider gets to work with one family, usually for a long period of time. They do far more than just medical tasks—they provide meaningful care that has a profound effect on the entire family’s quality of life. Jim feels the cost of caring for someone at home is far less expensive than caring for them in an institution, making the Veteran Directed Care Program an ideal resource for caregivers of veterans. Jim believes policymakers should provide all caregivers with the support they need and the recognition they deserve.