Reporting from Washington — The House voted 419 to 0 on Wednesday to approve new benefits and financial support for the primary live-in caregivers of seriously wounded veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The measure, which would cost about $1.7 billion over five years, is part of comprehensive legislation that would permit the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand its assistance to family members of veterans generally. Among other things, the bill also calls for seven days of post-delivery care for female veterans' newborns and more accessible healthcare for veterans living in rural areas.
"Now is the time to address the emerging needs, as well as those needs that have lingered for years," said Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. "This bill represents an understanding that the sacrifices of our veterans are shared among us all as Americans."
Caregivers of veterans from the more recent wars would be eligible for monthly stipends to be determined by the secretary of Veterans Affairs that would be commensurate with commercial rates for home caregivers.
These caregivers would also receive training, education and health benefits, including mental health services.
Caregivers of veterans from other eras would be eligible for a more limited range of benefits for now, but Congress could vote to cover them with similar assistance within the next two years.
The bill now moves back to the Senate. The Senate passed its own version 98 to 0 last year.