I recently returned from a day of meetings with Congressional representatives in Washington, DC who have the power and the opportunity to pass legislation to improve the lives of our nation’s disabled veterans. My focus during these meetings was the enhancement of caregiver support for injured vets.
As I reflected on more than 45 years of living in the world by getting around in a wheelchair, I realized just how lucky I was to find a small number of very loyal caregivers. For instance, while living on Long Island, New York, between 1969 and 1980, I had two different male caregivers, both of whom I came to know during my VA physical rehabilitation process.
Since relocating in 1980 to a community northwest of the Big Apple, I have been extremely blessed to have just five different yet outstanding caregivers. I’m writing about the years between 1980 and early 2007. That’s 27 years during which these male and female nurses or nursing assistants worked for me, and followed my instructions. Two of them worked at a different VA facility a little north of my home. The other three individuals I was fortunate to find in a small nursing agency in my one-horse town. What were the chances of that happening? But it truly did.
Since 2007, my spouse has been my caregiver. Some two-plus years later, we found out quite by accident from friends that VA would provide financial support for my spouse to assist me in the morning and in the evening. My wife went through a totally redundant training program, and now she submits a form to the VA at the end of each month and she eventually receives a check in the mail for her extremely valuable services.
In retrospect, I realize that I’ve been very lucky over the years to have attracted great caregivers. This circumstance enabled me to work hard to earn a graduate degree, and then to work for this organization for 35-plus years. And now that I’m an older dude, I can look back and say, “I’ve been fortunate to have truly great caregivers!”
So here’s my opportunity, wherever they are, to say “thank you for your great care” to John, Lemmie, Myrna, Theo, Eileen, Margaret, Ken and Daisy. Without your care and understanding, I could not have lived a productive and fulfilling life. And let’s keep it moving forward. Caregivers rock!
Chair of the VetsFirst Committee
To learn more about efforts to expand access to VA’s comprehensive caregiver program, please visit our advocacy center.