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Veterans Day: Reflections on Joining Forces at the White House

By Maggie Brown | November 11, 2014 | Careers & Culture, Employee Spotlights

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Today is a day to reflect on the sacrifices made by our military veterans. But here at BCBSNC, veterans are on our minds all year long.

Back in August, three of our employees — Joy Simmons, Laurie Champagne and Dr. Patti Forest – found themselves at the White House. They weren’t there as tourists, but rather as invited guests to take part in a Joining Forces meeting on the mental health of our country’s military personnel and veterans.

Leaders of Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative for our troops and veterans, had heard about BCBSNC’s Red, White and Blue NC campaign and wanted to know more. For Laurie, the visit had special meaning.

“I am a veteran,” she explains. “I served for seven years in the Air Force during the Gulf War. I do not have any continued impact on my health or well-being related to my time in service, but I knew many who were far less fortunate. Many of our service members, veterans and even their families experience things we could never imagine and have needs we might not ever consider. This is where my passion comes from.”

Joy and Laurie.
Joy and Laurie.

So what exactly has BCBSNC been doing to warrant recognition from the White House? 

We recognize that service men, women and their families have unique health care needs, and we’re doing our part to ensure that veterans receive the tools, knowledge and care to tackle many common issues they face.

For veterans and their families: The Red, White and Blue NC website offers tools and resources for health care, living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other issues like education, finding employment, and parenting.

For health care providers: BCBSNC is teaming up with health care professionals: in order to ensure that veterans receive the best care possible. We developed a course curriculum with topics including assisting veterans in crisis, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and others.

All seven courses will be available by the end of 2014. Providers are also rewarded to take the courses through BCBSNC’s existing pay-for-performance program, which also count toward achieving continuing education credits.

What was it like at the White House?

Laurie, Joy and Patti were at the table with Veterans Affairs (VA), Joining Forces, the Department of Defense, and various medical associations. Those groups were all truly interested in what BCBSNC had to say, and wanted to work together to identify mental health solutions for the military and veteran community.

“As the group leaned on us for our expertise, it truly was a ‘feel good’ moment to know we were a big part of making a difference with our members and our community,” Joy says.

Laurie agrees. “When I began participating in the breakout discussions, I then realized the magnitude of what we were a part of,” Laurie says. “ Not only were we a guest speaker, but we were truly viewed as pioneers in educating our community providers in military awareness.”

We shared two main points with the group.

First, how we are prompting our health care providers to ask patients this question: “Have you or someone close to you served in the military?” This question could make a big difference on the type of care that patient receives. We are also in the process of having our BCBSNC case managers ask this question of all patients.

Second, the focus on the military courses we’ve created for providers. These courses are built into Blue Quality Physician Program (BQPP), our long standing pay–for-performance program rewarding community based primary care providers.

“The development of military courses for providers and their integration in the BQPP program is a demonstration of our pioneering efforts to raise military awareness among providers and our commitment to the primary care community,” says Susan Jackson, BCBSNC VP of Health Delivery Redesign.