Blue Star Families and United Health Foundation Launch Initiative to Train and Support Military Caregivers

February 03, 2016
  • United Health Foundation donates $750,000 to fund The Blue Star Cares: Military Caregiver Online Interactive Program, which will leverage avatar technology to train and support military caregivers

  • Capitol Hill forum brings together experts to discuss caregiver challenges, policies, research and opportunities to enhance pilot program development

Blue Star Families and United Health Foundation announced a new initiative to train and support military caregivers.

The Blue Star Cares: Military Caregiver Online Interactive Program, funded by a $750,000 grant by United Health Foundation, 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.

Military and veteran experts, members of Congress -- including U.S. Senator Richard Burr and Congressmen Scott Peters and Sanford Bishop -- and caregivers discussed unique military caregiver challenges and opportunities on Capitol Hill today to enhance the program's development.

"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, chief operating officer of UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans, which provides health care services for nearly 2.9 million service members, military retirees and their families. "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."

The Blue Star Cares: Military Caregiver Online Interactive Program will be piloted and tested over the next three years 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.

"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."

About Blue Star Families
Blue Star Families is a national, nonprofit network of military families from all ranks and services, including guard and reserve, dedicated to supporting, connecting and empowering military families. With our partners, Blue Star Families hosts a robust array of morale and empowerment programs. Blue Star Families also works directly with the Department of Defense and senior members of local, State and Federal government to bring the most important military family issues to light. In concert with fellow nonprofits, community advocates and public officials, Blue Star Families raises awareness of the challenges and strengths of military family life and works to make military life more sustainable. Our worldwide membership includes military spouses, children, parents and friends, as well as service members, veterans and civilians. For more information visit, or

About United Health Foundation
Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, United Health Foundation works to improve our health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local communities. United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, United Health Foundation has committed more than $285 million to programs and communities around the world. We invite you to learn more at or follow @UHGGives on Twitter or