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Senator unveils bill to help vets' caregivers

Patricia Kime | Military Times

Today, there are several programs to support spouses and parents who care for injured service members from the post-9/11 era. The VA provides a monthly stipend, travel expenses, access to health insurance, mental health services, training and respite care for designated caregivers.

The Defense Department also provides special compensation for caregivers who give up employment to care for their ill or injured service member.

But for the families of Alexis Courneen and countless other veterans injured before Sept. 11, 2001, there is no help beyond medical services.

Some members of Congress want to change that. For the second straight year, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has introduced the Military and Caregiver Services Improvement Act to extend benefits to those who help injured or ill veterans of all eras — not just post-9/11, Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans.

Murray's bill also would remove restrictions on who is eligible to receive benefits as a caregiver — to include siblings and friends — and would allow veterans to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to dependents and make the DoD's compensation tax-exempt, among other changes.

Murray said the legislation is needed because some caregivers devote full-time hours to supporting their loved ones and need assistance.

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