Caregiving for a loved one is expensive, and new data from AARP show it's even more expensive if you're caring for a veteran.
The data show family and others who provide care for veterans spend on average $11,500 of their personal income on out-of-pocket costs each year, while other family caregivers spend $7,242.
"Many veteran caregivers start younger as well as their veteran that they're caring for...are younger compared to generations of veterans and veteran caregiving going back to, say, World War II, Korea, even Vietnam," said Pete Jeffries, National Director of AARP's Veterans & Military Families Initiative.
Jeffries says another reason for the cost discrepancy is veterans may not be enrolled in the VA system. He says step one is contacting your local veterans office and getting your disability rating.
"We are really working with the VA to encourage folks to go and get re-rated because some of these conditions have occurred, if you will, or become more pronounced after people have been back home, back stateside. So get re-rated, see where you do fit in that VA benefit system. And by and large, if you were injured in the line of duty, you should be getting a vast majority of your medical costs offset."
You can call the Veterans Health Benefits Assistance toll-free hotline at 1-877-222-8387. When you call, ask them about the VA Caregiver Support Program, which has information for caregivers on things like financial aid, mental health services, and respite care.
You can also reach out to your state or county veterans office, or take advantage of some of the free resources with AARP. It has a Health Benefits Navigator on its website.
Or check out this webcast from The Elizabeth Dole Foundation and AARP about the impact of caregiving on household finances.