For 20 years, Yvonne Riley has cared for her husband, Dave, a medically retired Coast Guard rescue swimmer who became a quadruple amputee after a bacterial infection turned into sepsis two decades ago.
With three young children at home, Yvonne quit a good job to bathe him, get him in and out of his wheelchair, feed him, help him when he fell out of bed and eventually help him put on and remove his prosthetic limbs.
“To this day, she puts me together in the morning. She takes me apart at night,” Riley said in a telephone interview from their family home in Semmes, Ala. “It’s a full-time job. But she’s never gotten paid or training.”
That’s because the Department of Veterans Affairs only offers stipends, training, paid breaks and other benefits to the caregivers of post-9/11 veterans through a program passed in 2010. But the Riley family and thousands of others say they are hopeful that soon will change.
A proposed $3.4 billion in federal funding over the next five years would extend caregivers’ benefits to family and friends performing full-time care for veterans of all eras.