Creating Innovative Tools to Care for Military Caregivers
(March 30, 2017) There are about 5.5 million military caregivers in the U.S., all of whom have experienced or made different emotional and physical sacrifices. For many military caregivers, the need to suddenly provide intensive care for a loved one can be daunting – there's no time for advanced training and the emotional toll can be draining. That's where Blue Star Families steps in to help – providing support, training and resources.
"There are many military caregivers that don't identify as caregivers when they're not in the hospital or have unseen injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, which can be isolating," said Callie Barr, Marine Corps spouse and caregiver. "We need to recognize these caregivers and help them feel supported and understood."
One way United Health Foundation is working to recognize caregivers is through its innovative partnership with Blue Star Families to support The Blue Star Families Military Caregiver Online Interactive Program. This program is designed to increase military caregiver knowledge, skills, and confidence related to caring for wounded warriors. By enhancing social support networks and improving caregiver quality of life through new online human-centered training and interactive resources, the various needs of military caregivers who live in remote locations or are unable to attend a classroom setting can be met. Using avatars to create simulations and care scenarios, the program engages military caregivers and helps them to effectively problem-solve and address real-life care challenges.
In recognition of this partnership, Blue Star Families honored United Health Foundation with the Constance J. Milstein Award for Philanthropy. The Constance J. Milstein Award recognizes groundbreaking philanthropy that pushes the envelope of creativity and risk-taking to create a profoundly positive impact on military families. "We are so proud to give the award to United Health Foundation. United Health Foundation does risky, innovative work. They invest in community, they invest in caregivers, they invest in the information that makes a difference in people's lives. We salute them for that," said Kathy Roth-Duquet, founder and CEO, Blue Star Families.
Find out more about how UnitedHealth Group supports service members, veterans and their families through other partnerships and programs.
Evaluating the Health of Those Who Have Served
(Nov. 10, 2016) Today the newest America's Health Rankings report on the health of those who have served in the United States Armed Forces was released by United Health Foundation in partnership with the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). Ahead of Veteran's Day, this report reflects UnitedHealth Group's commitment through United Health Foundation to support the health of military service members, veterans and their families by providing new insights on opportunities to improve the health of those who have served.
Developed in collaboration with an advisory group of leading public health, military and veterans' organizations, the report illuminates notable differences in the health and health care experiences of those who have served in the United States Armed Forces compared to civilians. It offers a holistic picture of the health of those who have served. For more information, please visit www.americashealthrankings.org.
Built for Better Health Means High-Quality Care for Our Military Service Members, Veterans, and their Families
At UnitedHealth Group, we are on a mission to meet the unique needs of service members, veterans, and their families. Through innovative partnerships with organizations like the Fisher House Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club of America, we are committed to making high-quality health care more accessible and affordable for all.
Fisher House Camp Pendleton
A Home of Healing and Hope
(July 2016) This Independence Day, millions of families across the United States will gather together to enjoy a neighborhood barbecue, watch the fireworks, and proudly wear red, white and blue to celebrate our nation's 240th birthday. But there are countless Americans who are unable to celebrate the holiday with their loved ones because they are stationed far away or are recovering from the battlefield at one of our nation's military hospitals. At Fisher House, employees and volunteers join together with active duty military service members, veterans and their families on Independence Day to celebrate the holiday as a supportive community of friends while their loved ones receive care at nearby Camp Pendleton.
Fisher House is a place to heal, a place to comfort, and a place to call home for our nation's service members, veterans and their family members. With the motto: "A Family's Love is Good Medicine," the Fisher House Foundation provides active duty military and veterans' families with a comfortable and convenient place to stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving medical treatment.
Whether the call just came in that a loved one has been wounded in the line of duty, or a family has been watching their mother, father, husband or wife struggle through a painful recovery process after coming home from the battlefield, what matters most is the opportunity to be by their side during the recovery process. That's where the Fisher House Foundation steps in, enabling family members to be near a loved one in a time of need and focus on their recovery. Fisher House's 70 homes are located in close proximity to major military and VA medical centers nationwide.
In 2014, United Health Foundation partnered with the Fisher House Foundation to build a home at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif. After opening its doors in 2015, the new facility has become a home away from home for families with loved ones receiving treatment at the Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. Kiana Bright, manager of the Fisher House Camp Pendleton, described Fisher House Camp Pendleton as a blessing — not only to her, but also to those staying at the home.
"Fisher House staff are proud to be a part of and make a difference in the lives of service members, veterans and their families by offering comfort and support in their moments of need," said Ms. Bright. "Through daily interactions and acts as simple as offering a cup of tea, staff becomes a part of each family staying within the home and aid in the healing process."
Another meaningful attribute of Fisher House Camp Pendleton is its collaborative healing atmosphere for families occupying the eight guest rooms. The home's layout encourages fellowship between families while cooking, dining and relaxing in common spaces. While individuals are experiencing their own personal struggles, families note that one of the greatest features of the house is the ability to bond with other families in similar situations. Most of the connections made at Fisher House continue even after guests have completed their medical treatment and returned to their everyday lives.
"Fisher House is not only a place of healing; it is also a place where members of the community offer to share their kindness with others," remarked Bright. Oceanside community members give back to our nation's heroes by volunteering at the house, cooking meals and donating essential items and food. Employees from UnitedHealthcare and Optum recently donated personal care kits filled with everyday necessities that help to make life a little bit easier for Fisher House families.
"We have a special partnership with Fisher House, and our employees hope that by giving back we can make a big difference in the lives of the families that are making Fisher House their home away from home," said Sonia Mattson of UnitedHealthcare.
According to Bright, "through this type of community support, encouragement from staff and families staying within the home, and the comfort of loved ones, those struggling receive emotional support and companionship to aid in their recovery." Fisher House is so much more than a structure — it cannot be defined by four walls. As Bright said, "Fisher House blesses all who walk through its doors by providing hope for a new and healthy life."
Peak Military Care Network
Celebrating and Supporting the Military and Their Families
(L-R) El Paso Commissioner Sallie Clark, Tom Wiffler, chief operating officer, UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans and U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) help hand out 250 "Family Movie Night" gift baskets. (PHOTO: Teresa Lee)
UnitedHealthcare and Optum employees Cheryl Kusemka, Sharon Elbert-Holmes and Sherry Howell work together to assemble "Family Movie Night" gift baskets for military families as part of Military Spouse Appreciation Day in Colorado Springs, CO. (PHOTO: Teresa Lee)
The Pikes Peak region of Colorado is home to one of the highest summits in the Rocky Mountains, and it is also home to one of the highest concentrations of service members in the nation. With a major Army base, three Air Force installations and a leading service academy, it is estimated that one in four residents in the Pikes Peak area is a current or former member of the military.
To help serve the community, UnitedHealth Group is developing partnerships with organizations that are dedicated to meeting the distinct health care needs of service members, veterans and their families. One such partnership is between United Health Foundation (UHF) and Peak Military Care Network (PMCN). The partnership, which was announced on May 6, will focus on strengthening community alliances and supporting networks for service members, veterans and their families in the Colorado Springs community. The partnership is funded by a three-year, $800,000 grant from United Health Foundation.
The United Health Foundation grant will enhance PMCN's growing network of partners, raise awareness and access to vital programs and resources, expand case management assistance, and help proactively meet the needs of individuals and families before a crisis situation emerges.
While there are many military assistance programs available, the process to determine which are the right fit and how they are best utilized can be overwhelming, particularly for families of wounded service members or those struggling to assimilate into civilian life. PMCN helps navigate this process, connecting people with information and services through a collaborative network of military, veteran and community-based organizations focused on advocacy, behavioral health, child welfare, crisis intervention, education, workforce readiness, medical and physical health, social services, transition and reintegration to support individuals and families.
The grant was announced on Military Spouse Appreciation Day at an event for spouses and families of service members who have recently returned from overseas deployment. United Health Foundation was honored that service men and women and their families, veterans, employees from PMCN, and local elected officials attended the event. Volunteers distributed 250 "Family Movie Night" gift baskets to service members' families that were made by UnitedHealth Group.
Military Caregiver Online Interactive Program
Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families, discusses a new initiative by United Health Foundation and Blue Star Families during a forum on caregiver challenges and opportunities to train and support military caregivers.
(VIDEO: Jeffrey MacMillan)
UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans COO Tom Wiffler speaks with military caregivers during a forum on Capitol Hill.
(PHOTO: Barbara Salisbury)
Marine spouse and caregiver Callie Barr, BSF Operation Family Caregiver Program, discusses military caregiver challenges.
(PHOTO: Barbara Salisbury)
Blue Star Families and United Health Foundation Launch Initiative to Train and Support Military Caregivers
(Feb. 2016) A new initiative to train and support military caregivers is in the works, thanks to a new Blue Star Families program funded by a $750,000 grant from United Health Foundation.
To enhance the pilot program development, experts gathered at a forum on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on February 3, to discuss caregiver challenges, policies, research and opportunities. U.S. Senator Richard Burr and Congressmen Scott Peters and Sanford Bishop joined military and veteran experts and caregivers to discuss unique military caregiver challenges and opportunities to enhance the program's development. In addition, Tom Wiffler, chief operating officer of UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans, joined Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO, Blue Star Families, to announce the grant and partnership.
The Blue Star Cares: Military Caregiver Online Interactive Program aims to increase caregiver knowledge, skills, and confidence related to caring for wounded warriors, enhance their social support networks through a continuum of care, and improve caregiver quality of life through new online training and interactive resources. The training platform will use avatar technology to create computer-based simulations and care scenarios to help caregivers problem-solve and address real-life challenges to care.
"There are about 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States, and the emotional and physical impact of caregiving can be extraordinary," said Noeleen Tillman, executive director for Blue Star Families. "Through the support of United Health Foundation, this new program will provide caregivers valuable resources and training to help improve their own quality of life and the care they are providing to our wounded warriors."
"Military caregivers make tremendous sacrifices every day, and their continued well-being is vital to promoting healthier families and our military readiness," said Tom Wiffler. "This grant will further enable the vital work of Blue Star Families and create new, technology-driven training and resources to improve the health and well-being of caregivers and their loved ones."
"There are many military caregivers that don't identify as caregivers when they're not in the hospital or have unseen injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, which can be isolating," said Callie Barr, Marine Corps spouse and caregiver. "We need to recognize these caregivers and help them feel supported and understood. This Blue Star Families initiative is a huge step in the right direction."
Over the next three years, this new program will be piloted and tested with the goal of making the avatar training program and evidence-based toolkit available to military caregivers in the United States and stationed around the world.
Congressman Sanford Bishop, Jr. (GA-2) talks to military caregivers during a Capitol Hill forum that highlighted unique military caregiver challenges. L to R: Sherrie Wilcox, Ph.D., CHES, caregiver and senior research advisor at BSF; Marine spouse and caregiver Callie Barr, BSF Operation Family Caregiver Program; Congressman Bishop; and Tom Wiffler, chief operating officer of UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans
(PHOTO: Barbara Salisbury).
Kathy Roth-Douquet (speaking), CEO of Blue Star Families discusses a new initiative by United Health Foundation and Blue Star Families during a forum on caregiver challenges and opportunities to train and support military caregivers. United Health Foundation announced a $750,000 grant to support the initiative. L to R: Lynda Davis, caregiver and executive director, Military Veterans Caregiver Network; Megan Bunce, caregiver and director of community affairs, America's Warrior Project; caregiver Callie Barr, BSF Operation Family Caregiver Program; Kathy Roth-Douquet, BSF.
(PHOTO: Barbara Salisbury)
Veterans Employment Symposium
UnitedHealth Group and Paralyzed Veterans of America Host Veterans Employment Symposium
(Nov. 2015) UnitedHealth Group and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) co-hosted a symposium to discuss opportunities and challenges of hiring veterans into Virginiaâ€™s health workforce.
The state of Virginia has established a Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program that provides free training and certification for employers in veterans hiring. In a keynote address, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs and retired U.S. Navy Admiral John Harvey stated that Virginia has the fastest growing veteran population in the United States and the largest number of female veterans. He also noted that the V3 program has trained 255 Virginia companies to date.
Symposium participants included leading Virginia health care industry representatives, and state and federal government officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Labor, and the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, the Virginia Deputy Secretary of Health & Human Services, and a representative from the office of Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). Other participants included representatives from the Virginia Employment Commission, Virginia Values Veterans, Bon Secours Health System, Quest Diagnostics, Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, Virginia Health Quality Center, Leidos, Gateway Healthcare Professionals, PVA and UnitedHealthcare.
The partnership between UnitedHealth Group and Paralyzed Veterans of America is creating public awareness of the leadership role veterans play in their communities and the value they provide in the workplace and community. View video.
2015 Warrior-Family Symposium
Dr. Jerry Sullivan at the panel discussion, "Transitioning Nation: Our Response on Mental Wellness" at the Warrior-Family Symposium 2015.
(PHOTO: Courtesy of Military Officers Association of America)
At the panel discussion (left to right) Purdue's Shelley MadDermid Wadsworth, PhD; NBC Early Today's Tracie Potts; RAND Corporation's Kayla Williams, M.A.; Optum's Jerry Sullivan, Psy.D.; and Marjorie Morrison, CEO and Founder of PsychArmor.
(PHOTO: Courtesy of Military Officers Association of America)
UnitedHealth Group Participates in a National Conversation on Improving Mental Wellness for Service Members, Veterans and Their Families
In September 2015, Optum, UnitedHealthcare and UnitedHealth Group officials participated in the Military Officers Association of America 2015 Warrior-Family Symposium in Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by UnitedHealth Group, focused on how government and non-government organizations are aligning to improve mental wellness for service members, veterans, and their families. Attendees included mental health leaders from the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), academia, and the private sector.
Optum's Jerry Sullivan, Psy.D., general manager, Medicare and Federal Channels, Behavioral Solutions, participated on a panel focused on how the private sector can contribute to the delivery of quality mental health care for warrior-family needs. In his keynote remarks, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, noted that while the VA is making progress toward a goal of providing seamless services to veterans, more needs to be done to empower the private sector to serve veterans in partnership with the VA. Additionally, VA Secretary Robert McDonald provided closing remarks, in which he outlined the progress being made by the Department to increase access to care, decrease the backlog of disability claims, and decrease veterans' homelessness.