Legislation sponsored by local Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling to boost assistance for "wounded warriors" and their caregivers, an ever-growing demographic that faces unique challenges in the post-9/11 era, was approved unanimously on Monday by the New Jersey State Senate, giving it final legislative approval. The bill now heads to the Governor's desk.
The bill (A-450), the "Wounded Warrior Caregivers Relief Act," would provide an income tax credit to family caregivers of certain former members of the military with service-connected disabilities.
Lawmakers were inspired by a 2014 RAND Corporation study that included a number of unsettling statistics regarding the care of wounded veterans in the post-9/11 era, most notably that an estimated 1.1 million civilians are providing volunteer caregiving services to wounded veterans. Meanwhile, the study found that 53 percent of post-9/11 voluntary caregivers have no support network.
Roughly 12 percent of these voluntary caregivers provide more than 40 hours of care per week, which would be worth $3 billion annually in services if the care were not voluntary. Additionally, studies have shown that employee assistance programs for military caregivers have reduced absenteeism by 43 percent and enhanced work productivity.
"This is the right thing do for those who have sacrificed so much," said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). "We need to do everything we can do to ensure proper care for armed service members with physical disabilities. We owe them."