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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN / Report: Caring for Our Youngest Warriors / Editorial List

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Gary Barg

Report: Caring for Our Youngest Warriors

As the son, nephew and grandson of veterans (Korea, Vietnam and WWII respectively), I received the news of the new study regarding post-9/11 veterans with great interest. The RAND report, which was commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, finds that Americans who are taking care of veterans who served after 9/11 are younger than other caregivers, are usually employed outside the home and are more likely to care for someone who has a behavioral health problem.

The more than 1.1 million caregivers who assist post-9/11 veterans provide an estimated $3 billion in care annually. But, despite these contributions, researchers found there are few public or private programs that directly support the needs of military caregivers. Such figures can be reported, of course, for the work of pre-9/11 caregivers as well as non-military caregivers, since it is important to be able to quantify these figures for all caregivers.

“This study provides compelling details behind the incredible stories of selfless duty and sacrifice being demonstrated by millions of military caregivers across America,” said U.S. Sen. 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.”

Researchers also found the time demands on military caregivers are substantial. Twelve percent of post-9/11 caregivers and 10 percent of pre-9/11 military caregivers report spending more than 40 hours per week providing care.

While civilian caregivers reported missing one day of work per month, post-9/11 military caregivers report missing 3.5 days of work per month. The report estimates the value of this lost productivity at $5.9 billion annually. The lost wages add to the financial strain faced by these caregivers.

Researchers say changes are needed to both provide assistance to military caregivers and to help them make plans for the future. In addition, more programs should focus specifically on the needs of military caregivers, providing support based on the duties they perform rather than their relationship to the care recipient. Those services include respite care that provides caregivers a short-term break and better access to health services.

We are always joined at our Fearless Caregiver Conferences by the area’s Veteran Administration’s local Caregiver Support Coordinator, who answers each and every question posed by veterans, spouses and widows in attendance.

A few years ago, I was honored to be the keynote speaker at a Red Cross conference for Wounded Warrior post-9/11 spouses and parents (who are every bit as brave and fearless as the returning warriors for whom they care). I remain deeply moved and impressed by their commitment and love for their returning loved one. The one thing that did bother me a tiny little bit, I must admit, was that I was by far the oldest person in the room. But, I’m kinda’ getting used to that as the years go by.

The report, “Hidden Heroes: America’s Military Caregivers,” is available at

Gary Barg

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