On Monday, January 30th, we were privileged to join the First Lady at the Department of Labor as she announced proposed extended benefits to Caregivers of the nation’s wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans. Many Caregivers and vets from VeteranCaregiver were present, as well as many of the Caregivers and service members we assist at Bethesda. To have these amazing Caregivers in one room together was a rare opportunity for face to face camaraderie!
Caregiving is not sexy. The role of Caregivers is very hard to define to the general public. It is not a photo op with a service dog or a golf tournament. It is instead, a quiet, relentless, worthy, and necessary adjunct to recovery for our service members and veterans. It takes courage, passion, strength of purpose, and grit to navigate the complex medical system, and to advocate and coordinate efforts for their family member every single day. The recovery continuum is unimaginable without Caregivers.
This event signified the importance and priority of Caregivers in a quiet, but powerful way by the attendee list, and joining the First Lady were:
- The Secretaries from the Departments of Defense, VA, and Labor
- The Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and
- The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and all the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Specifically, the First Lady spoke of a proposed rule to extend the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to qualifying family members of veterans dealing with a serious injury or illness for up to five years after leaving the service. This is a change from supporting only family members of “currently serving” service members. This proposed rule would also cover those in the regular armed forces instead of the current entitlement for only those in the Guard or Reserves. And, addressing one of the most critical challenges facing Caregivers, Mrs. Obama also spoke of new programs to address critically high unemployment among Caregivers and veterans by announcing 14 hiring fairs with the Chamber of Commerce, including one to be held at Bethesda.
Caregiving defines love in new ways under new circumstances. And, most Americans are completely unaware of the significant, vital role that Caregivers fulfill day in and day out. We hope that this event will be the beginning of recognition of the essential role of Caregivers to our service and veteran families. As always, honor and praise go to all Caregivers, you are recognized daily by this VCG Community!