Veterans and the American Kidney Fund: Diversity and Inclusion

Veterans and the American Kidney Fund: Diversity and Inclusion

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is estimated to affect one in six Veterans.

There are currently approximately 500,000 Veterans diagnosed with CKD. That number is likely to increase by 30,000 people next year.

Michael Spigler is vice president of Patient Services and Kidney Disease Education at the American Kidney Fund (AKF). He notes that the partnership with VA brings awareness and resources to Veterans.

“Kidney disease is the fastest growing, noncommunicable disease (a disease that is not contagious) in the U.S., yet 90% of Americans, including Veterans, who have kidney disease are unaware they have early stages.”

Together, VA and AKF help Veterans with tools like the benefits for Veterans handout and the VHA Kidney Program The program provides kidney-related services to dialysis centers throughout VA medical centers. The partners also educate Veterans about risk factors, causes, complications and treatments for the disease and its associated conditions.

Link to video on YouTube

In addition to VA services – like dialysis care, VA’s eKidneyClinic and transplant services, the collaboration provides Veterans with support through awareness campaigns and events, nutritional advice through Kidney Kitchen, and a guide to help Veterans talk to their providers about managing the disease.

According to Spigler, nearly 1,000 Veterans have used the resource materials provided by VA and AKF. Also, the partnership’s Know Your Kidneys videos have aired more than 1,700 times on the Veteran News Network YouTube channel.

“VA and AKF share a common goal of supporting Veterans diagnosed with kidney disease by helping them live healthier lives through early identification and addressing the challenges Veterans face in managing their kidney health,” Spigler said.

Early identification means identifying the disease at an early stage with the assistance of health care providers. That can help with the management and treatment process of the disease.

African American Veterans risk almost double that of white Veterans

While anyone can get the disease, people of color disproportionately are diagnosed with kidney failure, which might require dialysis or a transplant.

VA research found that African American Veterans are at a significantly higher risk of developing CKD (12.7%) compared to Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Veterans, the Veterans with the second greatest risk of developing the disease (10.1%), and white Veterans (6.9%).

“AKF has been working for decades to combat the disproportionate impact that kidney disease and kidney failure has on populations historically underserved by the health care system,” Spigler says.

For example, in 2021, more than 60% of AKF’s grant recipients were people of color. Their grants and financial assistance programs may help Veterans with insurance premiums, transportation costs, prescription medications and other expenses related to care.


Like the AKF, VA advocates for inclusion, diversity, equity and access (I-DEA) for all. By eliminating barriers and identifying positive opportunities for underserved communities, VA ensures all Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors have equitable treatment and access to quality health care.