04.22.10

Senate Passes Family Caregiver Bill to Help Wounded Veterans and Their Families

Today, the Senate unanimously approved the Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. The legislation, which passed the House of Representatives with unanimous support earlier this week, includes critical provisions offered by Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, that will strengthen support for family caregivers of seriously disabled veterans. It also includes a provision authored by Senator Burr to establish a program of basic dental insurance coverage for veterans.

"I'm pleased this important legislation is headed to the President for his signature. The assistance for caregivers will hopefully alleviate some of the challenges families face in caring for a seriously injured veteran at home," Senator Burr said. "I'd like to personally recognize the efforts of two North Carolina families in shaping this legislation: Sarah, wife and caregiver of Ted Wade, as well as Ed Edmundson who, along with other family members, quit his job to take care of his son Eric. Ted and Eric would be in nursing homes without their families' support. Their personal experiences and advocacy for family caregivers nationwide have made this day possible."

The centerpiece of the bill establishes new assistance for the family caregivers of seriously disabled veterans, including training and certification required to meet the veteran's needs, access to ongoing support services, counseling and mental health services, respite care, medical care, and a monthly personal caregiver allowance.

The bill would also direct VA to establish a pilot dental insurance program for veterans. The Burr provision is modeled after the successful dental insurance program that exists for retired TRICARE beneficiaries.

"Healthy teeth are an important part of overall health, and our veterans should have access to affordable dental care," Burr said. "This program will open up options for coverage to many veterans who may now have none."

The bill would also enhance health care for women veterans, delivery of health care for veterans living in rural areas, access to mental health care for veterans and certain servicemembers, and would make improvements in homeless programs.