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Caregivers for Wounded Veterans

More than 1.1 million spouses, parents, and friends are caring for the injured and disabled who have served in the U.S. military since Sept. 11, 2001, often doing so without a formal support network and putting their own well-being at risk, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

A release from RAND, a nonprofit research organization, notes that the largest-ever study of military caregivers — 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.

Caregivers who assist post-9/11 veterans provide an estimated $3 billion in care annually and the work of all military caregivers saves the nation substantial sums in avoided long-term care costs. But despite these contributions, researchers found there are few public or private programs that directly support the needs of military caregivers.

The release quotes Terri Tanielian, the study's co-leader and a senior social research analyst at RAND, as saying, "After more than a decade of war, the toll faced by the nation's caregivers who aid veterans and military members is large and can be expected to grow in the decades ahead. Until now, the needs of this group have been poorly understood."

As injured veterans recover and reintegrate into civilian life, many are aided by the support and assistance of nonprofessional or informal caregivers, individuals who provide a broad range of care and assistance with activities of daily living. That care can include activities such as bathing and eating, as well as making medical appointments, managing finances, caring for children and helping manage situations that could exacerbate mental health symptoms.

While caregiving for the elderly and the disabled has been well studied, little has been known about the population of those who care for military personnel and veterans.

"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."

The RAND report is based on the largest and most-comprehensive survey conducted of military caregivers in the United States. Researchers surveyed a representative sample of more than 1,100 military caregivers and compared their experiences to both civilian caregivers and noncaregivers.

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