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Before the Committee on Veterans Affairs United States Senate Regarding The Department of Veterans’ Affairs Fiscal Year ‘09 Budget Request

February 28, 2008

As you are well aware, one of the recommendations of the Dole-Shalala Commission was to “significantly strengthen support for families.”  This will not be an easy task, but VVA believes this hearing can serve as the opening dialogue on a very serious concern.

As more and more troops return home damaged emotionally and mentally as well as physically, their families must contend not only with the shock of seeing the physical desolation of their loved ones, but come to grips with the new reality of their lives, which have changed dramatically, and not for the better.  Take for example a 35-year-old soldier or Marine with two children who returns home with what is diagnosed as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  His impairment affects the future of the entire family.  His, or her, spouse and children have to deal with his/her inability to concentrate, the mood swings, depression, anxiety, even the loss of employment.  As you can imagine, the economic and emotional instability of a family can be as terrifying and as real as any difficulty focusing or simply waking and crying in the middle of the night.  In cases of severely brain-damaged casualties, spouses, parents, and siblings may be forced to give up careers, forsake wages, and reconstruct homes to care for their wounded relatives rather than consign them to the anonymous care at a nursing home or assisted living facility. 

VVA believes that the mental health stresses of war may be even greater for the families of those serving in the National Guard or Reserves in that deployment of these individuals often results in dramatic losses of income along with numerous legal and family complications affecting the children.  These can include domestic violence and substance abuse.  In addition, unlike family members of active-duty military who often have an established support system available to them on base, family members of Guard and Reserve troops must often struggle to create their own systems of support

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