Written By: Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., MBP Consulting, LLC, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin – Extension
Finances are a major concern to a majority of military caregivers. In reviewing the data in the Hidden Heroes, American’s Military Caregivers study funded by the Rand Corporation (Ramchand, et al., 2014) we learn more about military caregiver finances and employment.
Regardless of the type of caregiver one is, a majority of caregivers are working. The study showed (76%) of post 9/11 military caregivers were employed compared to (55%) of pre-9/11 caregivers and (60%) of civilian caregivers. Even though service members and veterans are ill or injured over half of the post 9/11 service members return to military duty or find other employment. Few pre-9/11 and civilian service members (10%) work. So, we find that half of post 9/11 families have both the caregiver and service member working outside the home. Post 9/11 caregiver adjust their work schedules because of caregiver responsibilities. The study asked caregivers which of the six different adjustments they utilized:
- Taking unpaid time off or temporary work stoppage
- Cutting the number of hours worked each week
- Moving to a job that paid less or had fewer benefits because it fit better with their caregiving schedule or responsibility
- Quitting work entirely,
- Retiring earlier than expected
- Taking time off from school or cutting back on classes
All caregiver groups adjusted their work schedules due to caregiving responsibilities. Taking unpaid time off or stopping work was the adjustments used most often by every caregiver group. Post 9/11 caregivers used every adjustment more often than the other caregiver groups. The study indicated that post 9/11 caregivers missed approximately one day from work per week more than non-caregivers. So, it’s not surprising that post 9/11 caregivers express more financial strain (62%) compared to pre-9/11 caregivers (30%) and civilian caregivers (40%).
The financial plight of military and veteran caregivers has been acknowledged by the Department of Defense and the Veteran Administration. Both organizations have introduced programs to address the loss of income or the increased cost of caregiving. These programs have eligibility requirements which require an application process. Foundations along with non-profit organizations are helping military and veteran caregivers by addressing specific financial concerns or needs. Some assist with home modifications, school tuition, debt payment, purchase of assistive devices and other financially related needs. Many caregivers have no idea of possible financial supports potentially available to them so here are a few ways professionals can assist them.
- Getting to know each caregiver individually. Are they working? Have they adjusted their work schedule due to caregiving and how? Who are they caring for (pre or post 9/11 service member)?
- Listening carefully and asking follow up questions. Probing the caregiver’s responses will provide you with additional insights into the caregiver’s financial needs.
- Exploring ways to decrease their financial stress by looking at potential options through public and private programs designed especially for current military caregivers or veterans.
- Keeping up to date on available financial resources or who you can refer them to for financial assistance. Explain eligibility requirements, identify new programs and which ones have been discontinued.
- Identifying military caregiver or family specific on-line educational programs on managing finances will help the caregiver learn various money management techniques.
- Creating a list of possible resources available to help current military families or veterans that can be given to the caregiver can be helpful. A few examples include:
- Military One Source
- I am a Caregiver / Family Member
- Military Family Financial Transitions: Handling Changes in Income, Benefits, & Money Management. There is a detailed resource as a handout for this webinar.
- Operation We are Here
- National Foundation for Credit Counseling
Checking back with the military caregiver is essential, as they will encounter roadblocks in managing working and being a caregiver. You can “cheer” them on by acknowledging their successes and helping them explore more options as their situation changes.
Ramchand, R., Tanielian, T., Fisher, M., Vughan, C., Trail, T., Epley, C. V., . . . Robinson, E. G.-D. (2014). Hidden Heroes, Americans Military Caregivers. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.