WASHINGTON — Military veterans and their families received help from Congress on several fronts this week.
In-home caregivers of severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will receive a government stipend and other aid as a result of a bill passed Thursday by the House and the Senate.
Meanwhile, women would have improved maternity benefits under the legislation; rural and homeless vets would have more health care options; and former and current troops with mental health problems would have more access to treatment.
The legislation "represents the voices of veterans and their advocates from around the country," said Democratic Rep. Bob Filner of California, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act attempts to address the struggles of caregivers who are forced to quit their jobs and often lose their health insurance to care for wounded family members.
Caregivers of veterans from all eras would receive training, counseling, mental health services and 30 days a year of in-home replacement care. Health insurance would be available if they have none.
Besides the stipend, which would be based on hours and the degree of care provided, caregivers for some wounded Iraq and Afghanistan vets would be eligible for lodging and assistance when accompanying them on medical visits.
Among the new services for women would be up to seven days of post-delivery health care for newborns, including a greater emphasis on privacy in the male-dominated VA hospital system. The bill also offers training for mental health workers who treat women for sexual trauma.
The mental health services in the legislation include an emphasis on the rising number of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury among returning troops.