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DAV Past National Commander Brad Barton has been in need of a caregiver ever since his spinal column was severed by a mortar round in Vietnam in 1968. The Marine Corps veteran has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.


In 1974, Brad married Donna. At the time, Donna was in the medical field as a technician. She knew her decision to marry Brad would require her to take on the role as his caregiver. She decided to move up in the medical field and became a registered nurse.


“I went to the University of Chicago and got my nursing degree, I’m sure caring for Brad encouraged me to go further,” reflected Donna. “I didn’t know if I was competent enough for it, but decided to at least try. It’s made a world of difference.”


Home health care is generally more affordable than nursing home care, but still can be expensive. When averaged nationally, the cost of a six-hour visit by a home health aide is $126. That's $32,760 per year for a home health aide visiting six hours per day, five days a week.


Brad adamantly states that Donna’s training and expertise has affected them both immensely, in countless ways. By her having that medical training, and her willingness to care for him at home, Brad believes they’ve saved the government hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last 43 years.


“We’re not your typical couple—when one is a disabled veteran and the other is the caregiver—we’ve been incredibly fortunate that Donna has that medical training and has been able to take care of me at home when others would have had to stay in the hospital or go to a nursing home,” said Brad.


Brad receives 100 percent disability income from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) but said the times he has had to stay for an extended time in a VA hospital, his monthly payment is reduced.


“There are many times when I should have been admitted for a lengthy stay in the hospital,” Brad said. “Because Donna had her medical training, and was able to care for me herself, the VA doctors were confident enough to send me home. Otherwise, we would have forfeited a lot of our income that we depended on.”


Donna said they have felt secure over the years because she was able to care for Brad herself, but knows most caregivers don’t have the same education and training.


“It’s a scary thing, taking care of someone full-time,” said Donna. “If you’re not familiar with medical procedures or terminology, it’s very scary. I can’t imagine how I would have coped if I didn’t have my background. I would have been in dire straits.”


Donna and Brad both agree that the Post-9/11 veterans and caregivers who qualify for caregiver benefits are more than deserving of the assistance, but said those benefits—such as caregiver training, stipends or respite care—should be award to all veterans of any era and their caregivers.


“Brad went to war, he was injured, he came home disabled,” Donna said. “He is no different from a newly injured veteran who needs support. I feel like the older veterans are being segregated from the younger veterans. They’re making the older veterans feel like they’re not as important.”

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