Measures Aimed at Assisting the Growing Number of Family Members Caring for Wounded Veterans in Post-9/11 Era
(TRENTON) – A legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Sgt. Bob Andrzejczak, Raj Mukherji, Paul Moriarty, Daniel Benson and Joseph Danielsen to boost assistance for “wounded warriors” and their caregivers, an ever-growing demographic that faces unique challenges in the post-9/11 era, has been signed into law.
The lawmakers were inspired by a number of unsettling statistics regarding the care of wounded veterans in the post-9/11 era, most notably that an estimated 1.1 million civilians are providing volunteer care-giving services to wounded veterans. Meanwhile, a Rand Corporation study conducted in 2014 found that 53 percent of post-9/11 voluntary caregivers have no support network and as many as 40 percent do not have their own health care.
These new measures are designed to help improve the quality of life for wounded warriors by boosting state resources to provide assistance to both them and their caregivers.
“The purpose of these laws is to help care for those who are caring for our veterans,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Care-giving for post-9/11 veterans is a massive economic and societal undertaking that we’re facing right now. The enormous sacrifice our military members have made during two wars for over a decade now deserves a better response from our end. Ultimately, these laws will improve the quality of life for veterans wounded in combat by boosting state assistance to help their loved ones care for them.”
“Support for military caregivers is not just the right and necessary thing to do, it also makes good economic sense,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), a retired U.S. Army sergeant who lost his leg while serving in Iraq in 2008. “We can’t turn a blind eye to this growing issue when our service men and women have been actively engaged overseas for going on two decades now. While most family members will give selflessly of their time to help a loved one who was wounded in battle, the fact remains that they still need to support themselves, and perhaps other family members, which becomes much harder to do when they have less time to devote to earning a living.”
The first law (A-3552) requires the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to provide a financial planning assistance program for disabled veterans and their caregivers in order to assist them with the financial burdens that may arise when a veteran is disabled and needs assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation, assistance with mobility, housekeeping, shopping, and driving or transportation.
The second law (A-3554) increases the income eligibility cap to receive respite care for certain veterans. Current regulations provide that the maximum income level to qualify for the Statewide Respite Care Program is 300 percent of the Federal Supplemental Security Income standard for an individual living alone, and that the person’s maximum liquid resources may not exceed $40,000 for a single person or $60,000 for a couple who are both dependent on a caregiver. Under the law, those income limits will increase to $60,000 for a single person and $80,000 for a couple.
“It’s easy to forget how young many of our wounded veterans are,” added Mazzeo. “Many return in their twenties or thirties and have injuries that will prevent them from ever walking again, no less working or being able to support a family. This is the sacrifice they were willing to endure for their country. Now we need to step up to the plate and do all we can to help care for them.”
“Hopefully these measures will help boost the level of care our wounded veterans receive, while also increasing their self-sufficiency,” added Andrzejczak. “Housing assistance and increased veterans allowances will go a long way towards helping many rebuild their lives without having to rely entirely on family.”
“The care and devotion from family members and caregivers who tend to our wounded warriors often extends a lifetime,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. “By creating a financial planning assistance program and expanding respite care, we are showing that New Jerseyans recognize our freedom is not free.”
“Oftentimes it’s overlooked that those caring for our wounded warriors are spouses or family members who have a number of other responsibilities in their life, such as work, managing households or caring for children, as well,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Financial and planning assistance is, without a doubt, a welcome and much-needed boost for many.”
“Caregivers of veterans often devote long hours tending to the needs of their loved one, many times sacrificing their own well-being,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This can definitely be stressful, both physically and financially. We need to step up and help repay some of the sacrifice our veterans and their family members have made.”
“These are veterans who have made grave sacrifices for our country, irreparable sacrifices” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “They deserve our utmost devotion and attention, as do their caregivers, given the enormous responsibilities they have before them. Hopefully these measures will help ease some of life’s every day challenges for them.”