One Million ‘Hidden Heroes’ Care for Wounded and Disabled Veterans

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The nation needs to better acknowledge and support the efforts of the “hidden heroes” from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: the estimated 1.1 million civilian, volunteer caregivers tending to the needs of wounded and disabled veterans, according to recommendations contained in a RAND Corp. study released Monday.

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Soldiers are reunited with family members at Ft. Knox in Kentucky earlier this year. (Credit: Luke Sharrett / Getty Images)

While family members and others have long cared for veterans, the veterans from two recent wars are more likely to have mental health and substance problems, making the task of providing care even more difficult, according to the study, which was funded by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

A common task for caregivers is helping the veteran “in coping with stressful situations or other emotional and behavorial challenges,” the study found. Other tasks include housework, meals, transportation and overall “health management and maintenance.”

“Caring for a loved one is a demanding and difficult task,” the researchers concluded, “often doubly so for caregivers who are juggling care duties with family life and work. The result is often that caregivers pay a price for their devotion.”

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