Bill Aimed at Assisting Growing Number of Family Members Caring for Wounded Vets in Post-9/11 Era
(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo, Bob Andrzejczak, Raj Mukherji, Paul Moriarty, Daniel Benson, Joseph Danielsen and Eric Houghtaling sponsored to boost assistance for “wounded warriors” and their caregivers, an ever-growing demographic that faces unique challenges in the post-9/11 era, was approved 37-0 Monday by the Senate, giving it final legislative approval.
The lawmakers were inspired by a 2014 RAND Corporation study that included 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 caregiving services to wounded veterans. Meanwhile, the study found that 53 percent of post-9/11 voluntary caregivers have no support network.
“The purpose of the bill 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.”
The sponsors also noted that 12 percent of these voluntary caregivers provide more than 40 hours of care per week, which would be worth $3 billion annually in services if the care were not voluntary. Additionally, studies have shown that employee assistance programs for military caregivers have reduced absenteeism by 43 percent and enhanced work productivity.
“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 bill (A-450), the “Wounded Warrior Caregivers Relief Act,” would provide an income tax credit to family caregivers of certain former members of the military with service-connected disabilities.
The bill sets the refundable qualified veteran care credit at 100 percent of the service member’s disability compensation or $675, whichever is less. To qualify for the credit, a caregiver must:
? Be related to the service member within the third degree;
? Share a residence with the service member for at least six months of the year;
? Have a gross income that does not exceed $100,000 as a joint filer or $50,000 as a single or separate filer.
“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 enacting an income tax credit for family caregivers of disabled veterans, creation of a financial planning assistance program, and expansion of 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 ones, 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 this legislation will help ease some of life’s everyday challenges for them.”
“This is the right thing do for those who have sacrificed so much,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “We need to do everything we can do to ensure proper care for armed service members with physical disabilities. We owe them.”
The bill was approved by the Assembly in June. It now goes to the governor.