Boozman, Murray Lead Legislation to Strengthen VA Support for Disabled Veterans and Young Caregivers
Mar 03 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Patty Murray (D-WA), senior members of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation to support the families of disabled veterans, including children who take on caregiving roles.
The Helping Heroes Act of 2023 recognizes the work done by the approximately 2.3 million children under the age of 18 living in a household with a disabled veteran and seeks to provide critical support and assistance to these children in accessing local, state and federal resources.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently has limited authority to support veteran families with healthy development, especially when it comes to children who take on these caregiving roles. Veteran families could benefit from access to mental health care, peer support, recreational opportunities and other experiences that can help these children lead healthier lives.
“This legislation is an investment in the families of our veterans,” Boozman said. “Expanding the VA’s resources to better support the education, health and other needs of young caregivers is a critical part of our commitment to those who have served and sacrificed for our country and their loved ones.”
“Our country has a serious obligation to support all of our veteran families, and that means making sure those who’ve stepped up as caregivers for their family—including our kids—aren’t shouldering that responsibility alone,” said Murray. “I’m reintroducing this bipartisan legislation to make sure VA delivers much-needed care and support for our disabled veterans and their youngest caregivers.”
Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are original cosponsors of the legislation.
The Helping Heroes Act of 2023 would help meet the unmet needs of these children by:
- Requiring a full-time Family Coordinator at each VA medical center to assess the needs of veteran families in their catchment area and refer them to available local, state, and federal resources;
- Establishing a Family Support Program to provide supportive services to eligible family members of disabled veterans;
- Ensuring transition assistance curriculum includes information on services for children in veteran families adjusting from Active Duty to veteran status;
- And requiring VA to collect data on the experiences of disabled veteran families to better identify and understand their needs.
These young caregivers provide invaluable support to their veteran family members. In doing so, they face unique challenges and often take on added responsibilities. More about this issue can be found in the Elizabeth Dole Foundation commissioned report report from Mathematica on supporting the healthy development of children from military and veteran caregiving homes.
The legislation is supported by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Blinded Veterans Association and American Veterans.
“Generations of veteran children have witnessed first-hand the physical and emotional effects of war when their parent returns home. They experience more stress, anxiety, and isolation than most of us will see in our lifetimes,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. "Today, with the reintroduction of the Helping Heroes Act, we take an important step in acknowledging the load these caregiver children carry is heavier than our nation should let them bear. On behalf of the millions of hidden helpers across America, we thank Senators Murray and Boozman for driving this critical, bipartisan legislation.”
As part of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Helpers initiative, a number of nationwide organizations wrote a letter to Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs leadership in support of this legislation.