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Shared Sacrifice

Taking care of the caregivers of our wounded warriors

It's been a year since President Obama signed a groundbreaking law, creating a program to help those families caring for service members severely injured after September 11, 2001.

See also: Department of Veterans Affairs L. Tammy Duckworth

The law mandates that veterans' caregivers receive training, a stipend and respite care. Because the program was late in starting and excluded many who thought they would qualify, there was much disappointment among military families. Congress wanted the law to serve at least 3,500 caregivers, but the Department of Veterans Affairs was prepared to serve about 800.

Marine Sergeant Shurvon Phillip was injured in Al Anbar, Iraq and is now cared for by his mother Gail Ulerie.

Marine Sergeant Shurvon Phillip was injured in Al Anbar, Iraq and is now cared for by his mother Gail Ulerie.

In response to the criticism, the VA reversed course and announced it will sponsor an expanded program for eligible caregivers. This decision marks the first time the VA will disperse benefits to someone other than a veteran. On May 9, staff in the VA’s Office of Care Management and Social Work opened the application process for eligible post-9/11 veterans and service members to designate their family caregivers.

In May 2008, Jane Pauley’s AARP TV special, Picking Up the Pieces, profiled Cindy Parsons and Gail Ulerie, mothers of severely wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Parsons and Ulerie have devoted their lives to taking care of their injured sons. Inside E Street revisits them, three years later. They share their thoughts on whether these new caregivers’ benefits will help ease the burden of caregiving.  

Also, Lark McCarthy talks with two chief advocates for veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary L. Tammy Duckworth and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Both have firsthand knowledge of the sacrifice veterans and their family caregivers make. Duckworth, an Army helicopter pilot, lost both legs and suffered other wounds in the Iraq War. Murray is the daughter of a disabled World War II veteran. They encourage eligible caregivers to apply for their benefits as soon as possible. The benefits begin the day your application is accepted.  

For more information on how to apply for caregiver benefits, visit or call 1-877-222-VETS (8387)

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