March 06, 2023

Wyden, Colleagues Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen VA Support for Disabled Veterans and Young Caregivers

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said today that he and Senate colleagues from both parties have reintroduced legislation that would support the families of disabled veterans, including children who take on caregiving roles in Oregon and nationwide.

“The families of veterans have stepped up as caregivers and Congress is long overdue in stepping up for these families with critical support and financial assistance,” Wyden said. “The Helping Heroes Act would help veterans and their families get the care they need and deserve. I will do everything I can to get this vital bill over the finish line.”

The Helping Heroes Act recognizes the work done by about 2.3 million children younger than 18 living in a household with a disabled veteran and seeks to provide critical support and assistance to these children in getting access to local, state, and federal resources. These children provide invaluable support to their veteran family members. In doing so, these children face unique challenges and often take on responsibilities that their peers do not carry. More about this issue can be found here.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently has limited authority to support veteran families with healthy development, especially when it comes to children who take on these caregiving roles. Veteran families could benefit from access to mental health care, peer support, and recreational opportunities, and other experiences that can help these children lead healthier lives.

The Helping Heroes Act of 2023 would address the unmet needs of these children and would:

-        Require a full-time Family Coordinator at each VA medical center to assess the needs of veteran families in their catchment area and refer them to available local, state, and federal resources;

-        Establish a Family Support Program to provide supportive services to eligible family members of disabled veterans;

-        Ensure transition assistance curriculum includes information on services for children in veteran families adjusting from Active Duty to veteran status;

-        And require VA to collect data on the experiences of disabled veteran families to better identify and understand their needs.

The legislation was led by U.S. Senators Patty Murray, D-Wash., and John Boozman, R-Ark. Alongside Wyden, the bill was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

The text of the bill is here.