The nonprofit Clinton Foundation is putting its political heft behind troop and veterans health, focusing a portion of its two-day annual Health Matters Summit this week to jump-start yearlong initiatives on military medical care and wellness.
In the coming year, the organization will collaborate with organizations, communities and individuals to support veterans health programs. To jump-start its efforts, summit organizers held panel discussions with veterans and veterans groups to discuss the challenges they face and probe possible solutions to support military wellness.
Clinton Health Matters Initiative CEO Rain Henderson on Friday described military personnel and veterans as an "underserved population" that can benefit from increased focus on current and future health needs.
"The ages of our veterans have changed in the past several years. We have veterans who are now 22, 23 years old and their health needs are very different from older veterans. Because of this diversity, this is a population whose health needs have change dramatically and we want to shine a spotlight on them," Henderson said.
For the conference, the Clinton Foundation brought together policymakers, health experts, veterans and groups such as Team Red, White and Blue and the Pat Tillman Foundation to reach an audience that is largely unfamiliar with the health challenges facing former service members, Henderson said.
She added that while the Veterans Affairs Department does a "wonderful job" providing care to veterans, the many services and agencies that are dedicated to supporting veterans' health can benefit from improved collaboration.
"What we really want to focus on is how do you systematically support families to improve their health?" Henderson said.
The Clinton Health Matters Initiative was launched in 2012 to address health and wellness in the United States, carrying the foundation's established efforts addressing global health and childhood obesity to the domestic front.
Henderson said the Clinton family's concern for military personnel and veterans drove them to add military health care as a primary focus of their relatively new program to ensure that former service members have the access they need to quality care as they age.
"All three of the Clintons are more hands on than many people realize. These are important issues to them and they are very invested in this work," Henderson said.
Other major nonprofit organizations founded by living presidents — the Points of Light Foundation and the George W. Bush Institute — have programs dedicated to helping military personnel, family members and veterans.
The Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative focuses on supporting military service organizations, businesses, academia and nonprofits to address the needs of post-9/11 troops and veterans regarding employment, health, education, housing and women's veterans issues.
The Points of Light Foundation manages the Veterans Leaders Corps, a national service program consisting mainly of veterans and military family members that work through communities to address veterans and military family needs.