Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Military Caregivers’ Sacrifices Go Unseen. It’s Time For That To Change
Tom Ward hasn’t stood in formation in more than three decades, but the Marine veteran lives with a degenerative disease the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed is connected to his service so many years ago. Joe Swoboda completed three tours in Iraq and he, too, lives with health issues that impact his mental and physical well-being. Besides both being veterans, Joe and Tom have another thing in common: dedicated caregivers in their wives Melanie and Mary. But for all of Joe and Tom’s commonalities, the fact that each man served in different wars mean that Melanie and Mary don’t have the same benefits offered to them as veteran caregivers.
Last week, senators on Capitol Hill heard a handful of the 5.5 million stories of these “hidden heroes.” As military family members ourselves, we were honored to be joined by Melanie and Joe, Mary and Tom, and Wanda and Sam Ickes in testifying before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Each of us urged lawmakers to take action on legislation that would greatly improve the lives of military and veteran caregivers — no matter when a veteran served. These individuals are critical to the long-term well-being of wounded warriors, but too often it’s at the cost of their own health due to to the stress and isolation of caregiving.
Panelists from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation testify before the Senate Aging Committee at a hearing on "Military Caregivers: Families Serving for the Long Run" Wednesday, June 14, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.Photo by Lisa Nipp for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Currently, only 20% of military and veteran caregivers are eligible for benefits through the VA. That’s because when Congress first established the VA Caregiver Program, it only made benefits available to caregivers of post-9/11 veterans. Yet, the 4.4 million caregivers of pre-9/11 veterans face the same challenges as they deal with the effects of decades-old post-traumatic stress disorder, exposure to Agent Orange, proximity to burn pits, or traumatic brain injuries that are now causing early onset dementia — all with almost no assistance from the VA.
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation was established in 2012 to empower military caregivers by advocating for increased support, raising awareness and recognizing their enormous contributions to our nation. We hope the senators’ leadership will inspire their colleagues to ensure passage of the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act before year’s end.
“This kind of support should be available to all military and veteran caregivers, whatever era their veteran served,” veteran caregiver Melanie Swoboda said of the VA Caregiver Program. “It’s really helping people. It’s really making a difference.”
We also made a second ask of the senators: to fund critical research. This week, the RAND Corporation, in partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, released a research blueprint that must be pursued to successfully meet caregivers’ long-term needs five, 10, or 20 years out. Such research is urgent to ensure that our collective work on behalf of these hidden heroes is effective and sustainable.
If you ask any wounded warriors how we can honor their service and sacrifice, they are likely to say, “Help my caregiver, because that will help me.” We know from our previous research with RAND that the most significant factor in a wounded warrior’s recovery or improvement is a well-supported caregiver. No one sees and feels the love and labor a caregiver offers more than the veteran for whom they care. To the rest of us, a military caregiver’s heroism goes unseen, but it should not and cannot go unrecognized and under resourced. We call on Congress to stand with the heroes behind the heroes — our nation’s military and veteran caregivers.
The new acting secretary of the Navy said recently that he is open to designing a fleet that is larger than the current 355-ship plan, one that relies significantly on unmanned systems rather than solely on traditional gray hulls.
President Donald Trump, speaking during a closed-door speech to Republican Party of Florida donors at the state party's annual Statesman's Dinner, was in "rare form" Saturday night.
The dinner, which raised $3.5 million for the state party, was met with unusual secrecy. The 1,000 attendees were required to check their cell phones into individual locked cases before they entered the unmarked ballroom at the south end of the resort. Reporters were not allowed to attend.
But the secrecy was key to Trump's performance, which attendees called "hilarious."
Riding the high of the successful event turnout — and without the pressure of press or cell phones — Trump transformed into a "total comedian," according to six people who attended the event and spoke afterward to the Miami Herald.
He also pulled an unusual move, bringing on stage Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who Trump pardoned last month for cases involving war crimes. Lorance was serving a 19-year sentence for ordering his soldiers shoot at unarmed men in Afghanistan, and Golsteyn was to stand trial for the 2010 extrajudicial killing of a suspected bomb maker.
Retired Col. Charles McGee stepped out of the small commercial jet and flashed a smile.
Then a thumbs-up.
McGee had returned on a round-trip flight Friday morning from Dover Air Force Base, where he served as co-pilot on one of two flights done especially for his birthday.
By the way he disembarked from the plane, it was hard to tell that McGee, a Tuskegee Airman, was turning 100.
The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would allow service members to seek compensation when military doctors make mistakes that harm them, but they would still be unable to file medical malpractice lawsuits against the federal government.
On Monday night, Congress announced that it had finalized the NDAA, which must be passed by the House and Senate before going to President Donald Trump. If the president signs the NDAA into law, it would mark the first time in nearly seven decades that U.S. military personnel have had legal recourse to seek payment from the military in cases of medical malpractice.
A major serving at U.S. Army Cyber Command has been charged with distributing child pornography, according to the Justice Department.
Maj. Jason Michael Musgrove, who is based at Fort Gordon, Georgia, has been remanded to the U.S. Marshals service, a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia says.