More Than A Million Americans Provide Care For Vets Returning Home From Iraq, Afghanistan Wars
April 1, 2014

More Than A Million Americans Provide Care For Disabled Vets Returning Home From Iraq, Afghanistan Wars

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

As the US troop draw-down from Afghanistan looms just over the horizon, a new report from the Rand Corporation has revealed that about 1.1 million Americans currently provide care for ailing or disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

The report, which was commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, showed that Americans who are caring for veterans that served following 9/11 are younger than other health care providers, are usually living outside the residence and are more likely to care for a person who has a behavioral health issue.

The amount of care is said to be valued at around $3 billion annually, saving the US in avoided long-term care costs. The study researchers also found there are few public or private programs that directly support the needs of military caregivers.

"After more than a decade of war, the toll faced by the nation's caregivers who aid veterans and military members is large and can be expected to grow in the decades ahead," said study researcher Terri Tanielian, a senior social research analyst at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Until now, the needs of this group have been poorly understood."

Care provided by spouses, parents or other loved ones can include help with bathing and eating, along with making medical appointments, managing finances, caring for children and helping to manage situations that could exacerbate mental health problems, like post-traumatic stress disorder.

The study authors noted that little research has focused on those who care for military personnel and veterans – compared to those who care for the disabled or elderly.

"This study provides compelling details behind the incredible stories of selfless duty and sacrifice being demonstrated by millions of military caregivers across America," said former Senator Elizabeth Dole. "The findings confirm this is an urgent societal crisis and will serve as a call to action in galvanizing communities and inspiring individuals and organizations to raise awareness and increase support for our nation's hidden heroes."

The report, based on a representative survey of over 1,100 military caregivers, found that about 5.5 million Americans provide care for military veterans, of which 20 percent are caring for veterans who have served since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. While those who care for post-9/11 military members typically assist with fewer basic tasks than other types of caregivers, they are more likely to help the person they care for through mental challenges, the study found.

The report also noted that caring for these veterans is quite demanding – often calling for a commitment of more than 40 hours per week. On average, post-9/11 military caregivers report missing 3.5 days of work per month, the equivalent of about $5.9 billion in lost productivity each year.

"Caring for a loved one is a demanding and difficult task, often doubly so for caregivers who juggle these activities with caring for a family and the demands of a job," said study author Rajeev Ramchand, a RAND senior behavioral scientist. "These caregivers pay a price for their devotion."

The report authors called for more programs to focus specifically on the needs of military caregivers, offering support based on the amount of duties they perform. Those services might include respite care that offers caregivers a short-term break and better access to health services.