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We’ve written before about the ways Schweitzer Fellows are meeting the health needs of disenfranchised, underserved veterans — and last Veterans Day, we discussed a Harvard research team’s finding’s that:

2,266 U.S. military veterans under the age of 65 died [in 2008] because they lacked health insurance and thus had reduced access to care. That figure is more than 14 times the number of deaths (155) suffered by U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2008, and more than twice as many as have died (911 as of Oct. 31) since the war began in 2001.

Now, a year later, what has changed regarding U.S. veterans’ access to care (or lack thereof?). Well, the health reform bill hasn’t impacted veterans’ health care either negatively or positively: the administration of health care to veterans and their families falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

However, by signing Congress’s Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act into law last December, the current administration:

ended up appropriating $581 million for “for research in a number of areas including mental health, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, burn injury, polytrauma injuries, and sensory loss.” That’s a $71 million increase from 2009. Congress also provided up to $5 million for the Graduate Psychology Education Program to support increased training of psychologists skilled in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and related disorders. (PolitiFact)

And for FY2011, the President’s budget reflects additional increases aimed at making it “easier for veterans to access benefits and services” and enrolling “more than 500,000 moderate-income veterans in the VA health care system by 2013 while maintaining high-quality and timely care for the lower-income and disabled veterans who currently rely on VA.”

On a similar note, increasing light is being shed on the stresses and sacrifices faced by veterans’ caregivers and family members, thanks to a new study released today:

“The care of a veteran is unique, and in many ways these caregivers are facing even greater challenges than other family caregivers,” said Gail Hunt, president of CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), which released the study to coincide with Veteran’s Day.

So today, as we all pause to honor those who have served, and sacrificed for, our country, let’s include their family members in those ranks.

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