At the end of April, my spouse and I took a ride down I-95 to attend a meeting of Congressional representatives and spokespersons for accredited veterans service organizations. This meeting was led by Congressman Jeff Miller from Florida, who is the Chairman of the veterans’ affairs committee. Other congressional representatives in attendance included committee Vice-Chair Gus M. Bilirakis, also from Florida, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy from California.
Since the meeting was overflowing with veterans group representatives and it was scheduled for only 90 minutes, we just touched on many topics. I had my hand up probably for the last 60 minutes of this exchange of ideas. But, I never did get called upon, so here is the issue I would have raised. My spouse is my caregiver. She is not a Registered Nurse, but she is a far better nurse than some who have treated me in my home area, as well as at VA hospitals I have been forced to visit during my travels.
My spouse was trained to provide necessary care for me at the local VAMC which I use. Knowing her as I do, she took this training extremely seriously. I also know the nurses who provided her training, all of whom have more than twenty years of nursing experience. And the proof is in the pudding. Since my wife and I got together some seven years ago, I have spent very little time as an inpatient at my local VAMC.
My beef is in the amount of money my spouse is paid to provide skilled nursing care to me in our home. The amount is insulting. Don’t get me wrong, my spouse doesn’t complain about it. I do. And I’m a rapidly aging veteran who has aches and pains, but at the same time, I have never been healthier. The few hospitalizations I have had over the past seven years have been short ones. But over the 38 years before we got together, there were more one month or longer hospital stays than I care to remember.
At the risk of ranting on and on about this topic, let me close with a few thoughts. The first is that nobody on this planet knows me better than my spouse. She can tell that I’m feeling ill at about the same time that I do. She also knows when it’s time to go to the VAMC, and when we don’t need to go there. Last, she is not bugging me to push for an increase for spouses/family members who provide skilled care in the home. I’m the quadriplegic veteran who understands how my spouse’s excellent care is part of the reason that I’m still on the planet. I’m pushing for the increase.
The caregivers of veterans of all eras need more supports from VA. Really, nobody of sound mind wants to be in a hospital. Congress, we need you to expand supports this year.
Chair of the VetsFirst Committee