More than a decade of war has affected both servicemembers and their families in a variety of ways, and that is especially true for those who care for a loved one who was injured during combat. A new study from the Rand Corporation sought to uncover what challenges these family caregivers face on a day-to-day basis, and the findings reveal a surprising lack of information about these vital members of the military community.

Military caregivers face unique challenges
Among the most surprising findings is that 96 percent of people who care for wounded warriors are women, but researchers also determined that military caregivers encounter some obstacles that the civilian population – those who care for elderly or ill relatives – do not. For instance, their loved ones often have more significant injuries and they have to navigate a more complex healthcare system. Furthermore, they often provide care for longer periods of time – sometimes around the clock. 

Not much known
Experts say as many as 1 million spouses, parents or relatives provide some form of assistance to a loved one who was injured serving overseas. In addition to the more than 50,000 soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands more have post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other similar conditions. Still, despite the numbers, military caregivers often don't get the same amount of attention that those in the civilian population receive.

"Just as the nation's longest period of wartime has posed challenges for the military, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created hardships on the family members and others who provide care to the wounded warriors once they return home," said study author Terri Tanielian. "Unfortunately, we know relatively little about this group of caregivers and there is no unified effort to make sure their needs are being met."

What's being done?
While there are no unified efforts to meet the needs of military caregivers, that's not to say there aren't initiatives and benefits available to them. For instance, legislation from 2010 created the Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL), which is a program operated through the Department of Defense that offers a monthly stipend to military caregivers. The Department of Veterans Affairs also runs a caregivers program that provides a variety of benefits.