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A campaign for hidden heroes

Ensuring caregivers are not left out

Funded by USAA, the Campaign for Inclusive Care seeks to integrate the nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers into the veterans’ care team from the start. Photo credit: Inclusive Care Campaign

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The Campaign for Inclusive Care is just underway.

On Jan. 31 of this year, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation launched the campaign, which focuses on ensuring that military caregivers are completely integrated as a part of their service member or veteran's medical team.

"We know that too many caregivers are left out of their veterans' medical care, and this causes tremendous stress for the entire military family," said former Senator Elizabeth Dole, the CEO and founder of foundation, in a press release.

"We are bringing together Veterans Health Administration (VHA) healthcare providers, culture change experts and caregivers to examine the barriers to inclusive care and to address these challenges."

Supported by a generous philanthropic investment from USAA, the program will create a model intervention, educating thousands of doctors, nurses, and social workers within the VHA system on effective caregiver support that is inclusive of military and veteran caregivers.

"USAA is proud to support the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and its mission to empower caregivers across their journey and leverage the work of every sector to make that goal a reality," said Harriet Dominique, Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Community Affairs at USAA, in an email.

The Campaign is led by the Foundation as part of a long-term strategic partnership with the VA and in collaboration with health system researchers from Duke University and curriculum experts from PsychArmor.

Research by the RAND Corporation has shown that veterans have the best chance to recover when they have a valued and well-supported caregiver, and that the exclusion of the caregiver can set the tone for their caregiving, contributing to the physical, emotional and financial stresses.

"At VA, our caregivers are selfless, hidden heroes, and we appreciate all the work they do," said VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin.

The Campaign for Inclusive Care is organized in several steps. 

The first year pilot of the program will occur across three Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) in the Midwest, Texas and the Pacific Northwest.

Backed by comprehensive research on caregiver-healthcare provider interactions, a solution team of providers, caregivers and experts will determine the requirements for a change of culture within the VHA.

From that point forward, this group will lay the foundation for The Academy for Inclusive Care, an online learning platform that will further support the campaign for change among doctors, nurses and social workers. 

"The caregiver functions as the doctor, the nurse, and the social worker outside the confines of the VA," said Steve Schwab, executive director of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, in a press release.

"Including the caregiver in the care team will help VHA healthcare providers and caregivers achieve their shared goal of providing the highest quality care to veterans inside and outside the VA."

The pilot project is expected to impact 125,000 caregivers in the first year and is designed to expand quickly.

For more information about the Campaign for Inclusive Care, visit:

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