AAKP and Veterans Health Administration Align to Improve Veteran Lives
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP), the largest and oldest independent kidney patient organization in the nation, announced their new partnership with the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The formal collaboration aims to improve health outcomes and enhance the overall quality of life for Veterans with kidney diseases and is facilitated under the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP). AAKP has extensive Veteran and Veteran family representation among its Board of Directors, National Patient Ambassadors, and grassroots membership.
AAKP is a strong advocate for greater patient care choice, patient-centered medicine, and accelerated innovations in kidney disease prevention, diagnostics, and treatments – including expanded access to kidney transplantation and new artificial implantable and wearable organs. Since 2016, AAKP has intensified awareness of kidney disease as both a national healthcare and workforce policy issue through a strategy that engages multiple federal Cabinet agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Labor (DoL), the Department of Commerce (DoC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as Congressional agencies including the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In 2017, AAKP launched its Veterans Health Initiative (VHI) during the Kidney Innovation Summit at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, building upon objectives the two organizations shared during their work together in support of the 2016 White House Organ Summit. AAKP’s VHI is designed to advance research, innovation, and policies aimed at safeguarding the highest standards in kidney care and treatment for all Veterans managing kidney disease both inside and outside of the VA medical system. AAKP works to support Veterans, and the Veterans Health Administration, and is fully committed to protecting the legal rights and benefits Veterans have earned, including access to the best possible comprehensive healthcare. In 2018, AAKP, along with transplant professionals from the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) and the American Society of Transplantation (AST), secured the extension of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protections to living kidney donors through the Department of Labor.
AAKP President Edward V. Hickey, III, a Veteran U.S. Marine Corps Infantry Officer and Chair of AAKP’s VHI, stated, “Our partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Health Agency is a natural progression for two organizations who share a deep commitment to improving and protecting the lives and livelihoods of Veterans with kidney diseases. AAKP is very enthusiastic to leverage our services and programming to aid VA professionals and to further engage Veterans in all aspects of kidney education, research, and innovation. AAKP, as the leading patient organization in the country, knows firsthand that kidney disease impacts all aspects of life for both patients and their families, and that perspective informs all of our work in support of the Veteran community.” Hickey is a kidney patient and attorney with professional experience as a senior staff member on Capitol Hill and appointed service under two presidents, including at the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). At OPM, Hickey served as the Senior Advisor for Homeland Security to the OPM Director and liaison to Veteran Service Organizations. He is a recipient of the highly prestigious Silver Helmet Award from AMVETS.
The new VHA-AAKP partnership reflects a shared commitment to support and care for Veterans with six primary objectives:
- Increase awareness and understanding of chronic kidney disease (CKD), its causes, complications, and treatments among the Veteran community, including their families and loved ones.
- Distribute educational and supportive resources to Veterans with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of kidney disease.
- Provide Veterans with kidney health information and VA benefits for which they are eligible by linking to existing VA resources.
- Provide healthcare professionals within VA/VHA with education and other resources available from AAKP.
- Provide healthcare professionals within VA/VHA with information on potential research opportunities that are federally funded or funded by private sector AAKP partners.
- Provide employment resources to Veterans diagnosed with kidney diseases through a virtual job fair(s) utilizing AAKP partner organizations.
These efforts will build upon AAKP’s already existing VHI resources. Over the last six years, AAKP’s VHI has provided educational programming geared toward Veterans and their care partners on various kidney disease topics collaborating with renowned medical and research experts from esteemed institutions, teaching hospitals, and key federal agencies. Resources include OnDemand video content featuring officials across the health system on the VA Response to Kidney Disease, Veteran Health and COVID-19, and shared VA resources such as its Mobile App: COVID Coach, and additional AAKP patient education and treatment materials such as Coping, Living, and Thriving with Kidney Disease (English / Spanish), Understanding Kidney Transplantation, and the popular Conversation Starter: Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider about Changing Dialysis Therapies.
AAKP’S VHI has also elevated employment opportunities for Veterans through virtual hiring fairs with their partner organization CareerEco and has worked in collaboration with the VA and the American Society of Nephrology to engage veterans in new kidney health innovations. In March of 2023, AAKP and its allies at the American Society of Nephrology, conducted a special Capitol Hill Day to ask Congress for substantial increases in funding for kidney health and kidney innovations at the VA and for the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).
About the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP):
Since 1969, AAKP has been a patient-led organization driving policy discussions on kidney patient care choice and medical innovation. In 2018, AAKP established the first and largest U.S. kidney voter registration program, KidneyVoters™. Over the past decade, AAKP patient advocates have helped advance lifetime transplant drug coverage for kidney transplant recipients (2020); the presidential Executive Order on Advancing American Kidney Health (2019) new job protections for living organ donors under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) via the U.S. Department of Labor (2018); and Congressional legislation allowing HIV-positive organ transplants for HIV-positive patients (2013). Follow AAKP on social media at @kidneypatient on Facebook, @kidneypatients on Twitter, and @kidneypatients on Instagram, and visit www.aakp.org for more information.