Senators Stabenow, Collins Introduce Measure to Support Service Members, Veterans and Families Affected by Alzheimer’s Disease

Friday, June 05, 2015

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a bipartisan measure to help military families combat Alzheimer's disease and support those suffering or caring for a military family member with this devastating illness. More than 5 million Americans are living with this disease, and more than 15 million people serve as their caregivers. This measure, offered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, promotes the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's under the TRICARE program.

"Our service members and veterans put their lives on the line to keep us safe, which is why they deserve nothing but the best possible health care, including critical support for family members caring for those with Alzheimer's disease," said Senator Stabenow. "This heartbreaking disease can be terrifying for individuals and their families, especially when they don't know what information and support is available to them. This measure recognizes the toll Alzheimer's takes on caregivers and makes sure that under TRICARE, service members have the tools they need to take care of their families and themselves."

"Alzheimer's is a devastating disease that takes a tremendous personal and economic toll on the individual, the family, and our society," Senator Collins said. "Finding a way to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer's is an urgent national priority. We must also do more to support caregivers and families who are struggling to care for a loved one suffering from the disease. Our amendment would increase access to information on care and support for newly diagnosed individuals and their families through TRICARE, providing essential support for military families facing this devastating and debilitating disease."

Members of the military face unique risks due to their environment that could lead to a greater chance of developing Alzheimer's disease. Certain types of traumatic brain injury may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. During the years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center reported hundreds of thousands of documented cases of traumatic brain injury among active duty members.

Based on of the Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer's Act, this measure would ensure that TRICARE beneficiaries diagnosed with Alzheimer's and their families have access to a care planning session with their doctor to help them understand the diagnosis, treatment options, and what medical and military services are available. The HOPE Act introduced by Senators Stabenow, Collins, Ed Markey (D-MA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) earlier this year calls for the creation of a planning session under Medicare. This amendment would put in place the same session under TRICARE. The measure also calls on the Defense Secretary to determine whether additional support and services should be provided to caregivers of service members with Alzheimer's disease.

Fewer than half of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's say they were told the diagnosis, according to a just-released 2015 Alzheimer's Association report. In contrast, more than 90 percent of people with the four most common cancers (breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate) say they were told their diagnosis. Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and Alzheimer's and other dementias will cost the nation $226 billion in 2015 according to the new report.

This measure is cosponsored by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Mark Warner (D-VA).