Caregiver to an Injured Veteran: 'I Feel Like I've Been Drafted'

Friday, July 26, 2013

Advances in medicine and surgery are keeping more military personnel alive than ever. Injuries that would have been lethal in the era of the wars of Vietnam or Korea are routinely treated today.

About 95 percent of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan survive. But upon returning home, many grapple with a new reality. According to veteran advocates and veterans themselves, the Veterans Affairs system can't seem to keep up with the injured once they return home, and as a result caregivers are often left picking up the slack.

In our final caregiver profile, we talk to Valerie Brown who has seen her life turned upside down after her son, Sergeant John Barnes, suffered a traumatic brain injury and partial paralysis while serving in Iraq. The Wounded Warrior Project has provided Valerie and Sergeant Barnes assistance.

In collaboration with the American Communities Project and WNYC Data News, The Takeaway has compiled a map of veteran demographics across the U.S.


Valerie Brown

Produced by:

Megan Quellhorst


T.J. Raphael

Comments [2]

Mary Anne Connolly from Austin, TX

Your series was beautiful, broad-reaching, poignant and powerful. Thank you so much for your attention to this growing population and its many challenges!

As an only child of older parents, I started part-time caregiving for my 80-something parents just over 10 years ago with their first hospital stays. I moved back to TX to be closer to them and help out a bit. Caregiving and decision-making continued throughout various health and aging challenges from breast cancer to hip breaks to dementia/Alzheimer's, heart attack and hospice to basic help w/meals, bills, driving and more. They moved 6 times in 4 years between them due to changing needs and diagnoses and my Dad passed away just last year at 90.

Since Dad was a retired USAF Colonel and vet, we were fortunate enough to be able to afford independent living, then assisted/memory care, and are thankful for extensive health insurance due to Medicare and Tricare. However, without this aid, I don't know how most families survive, especially without long-term care insurance! Caregiving is a full-time job, and very few doing it can keep even a part-time job if doing it from home.

My mom is now suffering from dementia/AZ but is doing well physically and living in assisted living/memory care at 89. Every day with her is a blessing! This experience changed my life, as I was enjoying the peak years of my own career and life when it all began. Though I don't regret a minute of the time I spent helping them and the lessons I've learned, I'm determined to change things for future caregivers, children and anyone who ages. I've founded a website and movement devoted to changing attitudes and providing support and a place for advice and insight, called, soon-to-come.

P.S. I knew Allison Hockenberry while working at 20/20 at ABC News in NYC from 1993-98 where I was a PA and the EP's assistant, so I'm already a big fan of John's. Congratulations on a great series and thank you all!

Jul. 26 2013 01:04 PM
Todd from Denton TX

Just think of all the families on the other side of the war we left with the same problems. I bet it is a lot more. I am willing to support any cause with this.

Jul. 26 2013 12:51 PM

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