[Leslie] Kammerdiener is among thousands of unpaid caregivers ”” parents, spouses, siblings and war buddies ”” helping veterans injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars get through each day, says Barbara Cohoon, deputy director of government relations for the non-profit National Military Family Association. She says the caregivers are a vulnerable group, often under-recognized, and in need of help to navigate the military’s medical system. Cohoon says not all caregivers receive military benefits, even though many have quit jobs, moved out of their homes and drained their savings to care for their loved ones.
“Nobody’s got a handle on numbers, but 7,500 is the number bandied about,” says Cohoon, whose organization provides counseling and helps families negotiate the health system.
The range of injuries caregivers attend to spans from gashes and fractures that will heal, to comas, amputations, burns, paralysis, nerve damage and brain injuries so severe that cognitive function lingers at the toddler level or below.