Improve veteran care by supporting our hidden heroes
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The two communities working the hardest to support our wounded veterans – the VA’s medical teams and veteran caregivers – are struggling to communicate. The challenges are no fault of their own. Medical personnel have to navigate privacy laws and policies that complicate fully integrating family members and loved ones into medical decisions. For their part, many caregivers still have not been encouraged to self-identify as a caregiver, let alone feel empowered to take an active role in their veteran’s care. The barriers between these two communities result in poorer health outcomes for those who served our nation.

VA Secretary Robert WilkieRobert Leon WilkieOvernight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Senate Democrats press VA for vaccine distribution plan Overnight Defense: Pentagon faces leadership shakeup after Trump fires Esper | Trump approves UAE weapons package | Senate panel proposes 6B spending bill MORE has committed to change the culture of the VA to one that more fully integrates veteran caregivers. This will be welcomed news for the nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers. Through the work of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, we have commissioned evidence-based research that has studied the valuable opportunities we lose when we lock caregivers out of their loved ones’ medical teams. Experts have declared that the best chance our veterans have to recover and thrive is through a strong, well-supported caregiver at home. By opening lines of communication between health care providers and caregivers, we will provide veterans more effective, higher-quality care.

Our Foundation has also heard the consequences of caregivers being left outside of the exam room during their veterans’ appointments. Veterans—particularly this generation that has suffered greatly from traumatic brain injuries—can often misstate their symptoms and mischaracterize their well-being. This can lead to misdiagnoses, lowered veterans’ benefits, and lowered caregiver benefits.

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To overcome these challenges, our Foundation has been working alongside the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on a national initiative - the Campaign for Inclusive Care. Supported by a generous philanthropic investment from USAA, the Campaign aims to integrate military caregivers into their veteran’s medical teams.

Today, we are proud to announce the next phase of our campaign toward full caregiver inclusion. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the VA are celebrating two critical milestones as well as launching the Academy for Inclusive Care. The Campaign will now engage the general public through the Academy with courses that will cover four topics, enhancing VA medical personnel’s understanding of caregivers, the experience of these hidden heroes, and the best strategies for including them in their loved one’s care.

Additionally, clinicians, social workers, and frontline medical staff within the VA will now have access to an array of online video modules that demonstrate the best practices for fostering an inclusive care environment. Over the next year, we will be hitting the road to determine how the Campaign for Inclusive Care will truly impact patient satisfaction and care with a pilot program affecting 21 VA Medical Centers and 54 VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinics across the country.

With today’s announcement, we’re taking a critical step toward fully empowering and engaging our nation’s military caregivers, and it could not be soon enough.

Professor Joseph Campbell once said, “a hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Military caregivers put their lives on hold to provide extensive and round-the-clock care to those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. These caregivers are the heroes of our nation’s heroes and deserve our unwavering support and dedication.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation will continue its mission to work alongside leaders in the public, private, nonprofit, and faith communities to recognize our military caregivers’ service and promote their well-being. We ask that you join our efforts to make a positive impact on our veterans and their families.

Elizabeth Dole, a former Cabinet secretary, U.S. senator and president of the American Red Cross, is the president and founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, raising awareness and support for our nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers. Learn more about the Campaign for Inclusive Care at campaignforinclusivecare.org.