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Local veteran tries to recover caregiver benefit

GLOUCESTER, Va. (WAVY) – An Army veteran of two tours in Iraq is trying to get back into a program that enables a friend or family member to help with in-home care.

Gregory Bush, 44, served as a Patriot Missile operator and then in military intelligence as part of the Third Infantry. Following rocket and IED attacks, he returned from duty with several cognitive and physical problems. “I had traumatic brain injury, a frontal lobe injury,” Bush said. “Cognitive disorder, depression, anxiety, a lot of things.”

Bush says his ankle had to be rebuilt and now walks with a cane, and he had to have two of his vertebrae fused. He applied for the Veterans Caregiver program two years ago and qualified. The program enables veterans to designate a friend or family member to help with personal care, cooking and cleaning, and helping the veteran with medicine and doctor appointments. The VA provides a stipend to the caregiver which varies by case. Bush says his caregiver’s stipend was about $1,900 monthly.

Bush named his then-wife as primary caregiver and his daughter Renee as secondary caregiver. When Bush and his wife separated, he was hoping to move his daughter into the primary position. That’s when Bush learned he had to re-qualify. “For some reason they made me start all over again and that’s where the problem began.”

Hampton VA Medical Center would not comment on the case, citing patient privacy laws. Administrators say it’s a recovery-based program. “The ideal outcome would be for someone to recover sufficiently where they could become more independent and could actually graduate out of the program,” said Dr. Priscilla Hankins, acting Chief of Staff.

Hankins says there is no time limit on how long a veteran can get the caregiver benefit. “As long as they meet the criteria and qualifications they can continue in the program.”

Bush is appealing to the VA to get back in the program and get his daughter named as caregiver. He says he’s getting help from the staffs of both Senator Tim Kaine and Senator Mark Warner, and free legal advice from William and Mary Law School.

With or without the designation or the stipend, Renee Bush says she’ll take care of her father. “I love my dad more than anything and I’m just trying to make sure I’m there for him through it all.”

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