A VA program for caregivers of veterans of post-9/11 conflicts is aimed at acknowledging and supporting what many already know: Family members and friends are making huge sacrifices to tend to veterans whose injuries don't allow them to care for themselves.

A new federal rule provides for stipends, training and health insurance for those people who provide care to the veterans at home. Parents and spouses of wounded vets already are making the sacrifices to care for veterans, and many have lost their jobs, homes and their own health care in the process, said Mike Reckard, Minneapolis VA caregiver support coordinator.

"A lot of these caregivers have been doing this for a long time," Reckard said. "They know the veteran, they know the loved one. They can often provide better care than an outside provider."

Eligibility is for caregivers of veterans seriously injured in the line of duty after Sept. 11, 2001, who have a deficit in their daily living skills and/or have a problem like PTSD or traumatic brain injury that requires them to have supervision or protection. Family members can qualify even if they don't live with the veteran. Non-family members must be living with the veteran. Possible benefits include a stipend based on the veteran's need, travel benefits and per diem for education or training, medical coverage, and mental health counseling.

The VA has been accepting applications for the program since May 9. While this program is directed specifically for veterans of post 9/11 conflicts, Reckard said there are programs for caregivers of vets from other eras.

Veterans and their family caregivers can apply for the new services at www.caregiver.va.gov. Assistance and information on additional resources are also available to through the VA's National Caregiver Support Line, 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434