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Wounded Warrior Project Serves Wounded Veterans – And Those Who Take Care of Them

Christine Schei with her son Erik.

JACKSONVILLE, FL. — The mission of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has not changed since 2003 when we began delivering backpacks to wounded warriors in military hospitals after they returned from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our goal is to foster the most well-adjusted generation of veterans in U.S. history. Quite often, caregivers are the bedrock of a warrior’s journey.

Support and Programs for Caregivers

WWP’s support for the caregivers of wounded warriors ranges from benefits assistance to programs to meet caregivers’ unique needs, advocacy on Capitol Hill, research, and partnerships with other veterans service organizations.

WWP has a Department of Veterans Affairs-certified team of representatives that helps warriors and family members understand their benefits and navigate the claims process. Often, caregivers are the primary filer for their veteran family member or partner. WWP’s Benefits Services team advocates for injured veterans and their family members to obtain their well-earned benefits.

The mental health of caregivers is just as important. WWP offers numerous resources, but WWP’s Triage team can help warriors and their families navigate which programs and services would be best for their needs. Caregivers and family members can also connect with additional emotional support through WWP Talk, where a dedicated teammate will help develop goals and plans for individualized personal growth. Through our developed partnerships with available providers, WWP offers mental healthcare and counseling sessions to children of WWP Alumni.

Connection with others is also essential for caregivers who often spend many hours focused on others and can experience burnout. Caregivers will find a supportive community at WWP that can help give them the strength to keep taking steps toward living a rewarding life. This same network can also provide support and advice on best practices, both for caregiving and quality of life.

Christine Schei is the mother of a severely wounded veteran who WWP serves. Over the past 16 years, Christine tackled becoming a full-time caregiver. She quit her job, sold her house to move closer to her son’s doctors, and has fiercely advocated for her son’s health. While she is at her son Erik’s side constantly, Christine will be the first to tell you that being a military caregiver can be life-changing — and exhausting. She advised that caregivers need boundaries and support

Young Caregivers

It’s not just adults who can be caregivers in the home. Caregiving can be a family affair, with children, youth, and young adults taking care of an older sibling or parent who was wounded during their service. 

One of those is Christine Schei’s daughter Anneka, who was still in elementary school as family members rearranged their lives to care for Erik. She helped out constantly with her family and helped with her brother's needs on a routine basis. Today, Anneka is a third-year nursing student who was inspired by her mother’s devotion to Erik. 

Another young caregiver is Cody Truman.

His brother Andrew was wounded in 2010, sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Andrew was left paralyzed on the left side of his body and unable to speak. Cody was 15 at the time and quickly stepped in alongside his family to help take care of his older brother. Cody attended therapy sessions, assisting Andrew and encouraging him in his rehabilitation and daily life.

Through a WWP partnership with Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF), WWP is increasing attention on youth caregivers. Started by EDF and funded by WWP, the coalition includes the White House's Joining Forces initiative, National Military Family Association, and other military and veterans service organizations. Together, the organizations reinforced their commitment to improving the quality of programming and support for children and youth caregivers of service members. Since 2018, WWP has invested more than $655,000 to study the effects of caregiving on children through a collaboration between EDF and the National Military Family Association.

Independence Program

As caregivers of severely wounded veterans, the Schei and Truman families received assistance through WWP’s Independence Program. This program supports warriors who suffered moderate-to-severe brain injury, spinal cord injury, or neurological conditions. Through this program, WWP serves approximately 700 warrior families and 500 caregivers, providing access to individualized services including in-home care; life skills coaching; traditional therapies (physical, occupational, and speech); alternative therapies (art, music, and equine); community volunteer opportunities; and support or respite for caregivers.

Last September, WWP announced its caregiver relief initiative. This included grants to WWP's Independence Program caregivers, invested in enhanced services for caregivers in that program, and funded a $1 million grant to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to provide 35,000 hours of relief to military and veteran caregivers.

Legislative Advocacy for Caregivers

In addition to program support for caregivers, WWP has been a champion for critical legislative reforms that would greatly benefit America’s caregivers, including:

  • WWP was a lead advocate for the legislation that helped launch Caregiver Support Program in 2011. For the first time, our nation’s military caregivers were provided with not just recognition for their service and sacrifice, but also a comprehensive range of support, including education, training, respite, health care benefits, and a monetary stipend for the care they provide.
  • The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregiversgrew out of recognition for the special circumstances of post-9/11 families. At its peak, was serving more than 26,000 caregivers each year and providing more than half a billion dollars worth of support to those providing care to wounded warriors.
  • WWP was pleased to join many of our veterans service organization partners and peers in successful advocacy to expand this program to caregivers of all generations under the VA MISSION Act, , which codified the largest expansion of military caregiver benefits in history.
  • Presently, VA is expanding the family caregivers’ program to caregivers to veterans injured before May 1975 and WWP is eager to see it roll out to all remaining eras of service in the coming months.

Research Into Caregivers’ Needs

In addition to WWP’s advocacy work, we’ve also helped fund critical research into the biggest needs and challenges facing caregivers. In 2014, WWP funded and supported a study conducted by RAND in partnership with Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF), which led to the groundbreaking Hidden Heroes report. The data collected from this survey helped to shape not only some of WWP’s programs and relationships with partner organizations, but also major reforms to government policy including the RAISE Family Caregiver Act and the 2018 VA MISSION Act. 

Most recently, WWP joined the EDF once more in announcing a second landmark study led by RAND, which will take a closer look at caregiver wellbeing in rural, urban, and suburban environments. This study will also review what has changed in the veteran caregiver ecosystem over the last decade. The data collected will enable a deeper understanding of emerging issues, as well as how the caregiving community may change in the coming years.

Referrals to Partner Organizations

Wounded Warrior Project believes that no one organization can meet the needs of warriors, caregivers, and their families. In some instances where WWP does not directly provide a specific service or program for caregivers or military connected children, we partner with other veterans service organizations that can provide it. These partnerships help expand the resources available to America's injured veterans and help ensure they and their families are thriving long-term. This work is vital to building robust and resilient veteran families and communities. 

The WWP Resource Center can connect caregivers and the military connected children with our current veteran service organization partners that include: 

Last year, WWP's Resource Center placed over 15,000 referrals to mental health, physical health and wellness, connection, and financial wellness programming. These referrals can help warriors and caregivers see a significant offering of resources open to them – often without even knowing those options existed. 

Since 2012, WWP has partnered with almost 20 organizations dedicated to helping caregivers and children, providing nearly $15 million in funding to connect caregivers with the resources they need to thrive in their lives. Learn more about WWP's community partnerships.

Getting Connected

WWP strives to meet warriors, their family members, and caregivers wherever they are in their recoveries or transition to civilian life. To begin your journey with WWP, reach out to our Resource Center.

Contact: Mattison Brooks — Communications Specialist, mbrooks@woundedwarriorproject.org, 202.969.1120 

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more