New Britain Herald - December 2015

‘I’d be in jail or in a grave’ without caregiver, Iraq vet says - Central Connecticut Communications: New Britain Herald

Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2015 7:00 pm

Written By: Robert Storace

NEW BRITAIN — During an emotional roundtable discussion with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, Gulaid Ismail talked of coming home from war and the hardships he faced.

“I turned to alcohol, watched friends die (by suicide) and I separated (from the military) in 2010,” said Ismail, who served in Fallujah, Iraq from December 2005 to December 2006. Ismail, who also had a nervous breakdown, said if it wasn’t for his wife and caregiver Davina, I’d “be in jail or in a grave. She gave me a purpose to live.”

Davina Ismail told Blumenthal, Esty and three others gathered around a table at Central Connecticut State University Tuesday afternoon, “I consider myself a mother, wife and caregiver.”

Blumenthal and Esty came to CCSU to laud a budget measure approved last week by the U.S. Congress providing an additional $50 million to expand aid to caregivers of veterans. The measure, though, restricts aid to caregivers of pre-September 11, 2001 veterans, such as those who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Blumenthal said he’d consider having the Ismails tell their story to legislators in Washington, D.C., as he argues for expanding aid to caregivers of pre-9/11 veterans.

Blumenthal told Gulaid Ismail, “You are very fortunate to have someone who stayed with you. Seeking help is really important.”

Gulaid Ismail said he supports the measure to help caregivers of pre-9/11 veterans with tax-free stipends, travel reimbursements, health insurance, mental health services, counseling, training and respite care, because he knows the benefits of having a wife who has given her all for him. Most caregivers are family members of veterans, officials said.

“Caregivers need just as much support, if not more, than vets do,” Gulaid Ismail said. “They are an important part of our healing process.”

Esty called veteran caregivers “the backbone of the support network that vets receive.” Esty noted most veterans who need care would rather stay at home than be in a facility of some kind, adding, “It’s important to support our veterans and the preference of them to get care at home.”

Blumenthal — who expects bipartisan support in 2016 of a bill giving pre-9/11 veterans the caregiver support of their post-9/11 counterparts — said, “It’s the right thing to do from a humanitarian standpoint, as well as from a financial standpoint.”

Legislation enacted in 2010 established a $600 million comprehensive national caregiver support program for post-9/11 veterans. To date, officials said, the initiative has helped more than 22,000 veterans, caregivers and their families.

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