Employee Impact: Improving Quality of Life for Veterans and their Families

MILITARY MEMORIAL DAY catherine Gaffigan Cambia VP Network Management & Provider Partnership veteran
May 22, 2018

This post is part of a series that highlights Cambia’s unique Executive Board Placement program, which works to match company employees with nonprofit organizations looking to grow their board of directors. A key part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility approach to giving, the board placement program has become one of the most impactful ways Cambia strengthens local communities and supports employees in their own volunteerism. Through the board placement program, and the corresponding funding that complements an employee’s board service, Cambia supports employees to serve the greater good.

The Returning Veterans Project provides free, confidential mental and physical health services to post-9/11 war zone veterans, service members, and their families in Oregon and Southwest Washington. For Catherine Gaffigan, MD, board member, and Cambia Vice President Network Management and Provider Partnership Innovation, the ability to support the local military community and build awareness for the unique challenges experienced by them has fulfilled a personal commitment to give back to this deserving population.

Why did you get involved with Returning Veterans Project?

Catherine: Three years ago I moved to Portland, OR from the Midwest and wanted to get more involved in the local community. As a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy - West Point, and with my brother still on active duty, I knew I wanted to serve a veteran or military charity.

At about the same time, I was introduced to Returning Veterans Project by a work colleague and West Point alum. The organization’s mission to provide mental and physical health services to post-9/11 war zone vets, service members, and their families seemed like a perfect fit. Their belief that it is our collective responsibility to offer support, healing, and access to mental and physical health services for our veteran communities is a conviction that deeply resonates with me.

"Returning Veterans Project provides our veterans and service members an opportunity to heal and rebuild." 
- Catherine Gaffigan, Cambia Vice President Network Management  and  Provider Partnership Innovation

What do you do as a board member?

Catherine: I have been a board member for the Returning Veterans Project for approximately 2.5 years. Most recently, I was extremely involved in the search for our new executive director. If you think about it, the search, selection, and hiring of an executive director is one of the most important things a board does in support of their non-profit’s vision, direction and success. 

The process was very challenging and it made many fellow board members, including myself, question the future of the organization. But, we were determined to find the best person to help our nonprofit move forward. Happily, the extensive search proved fruitful. The new executive director for Returning Veterans Project was hired about three months ago and we are thrilled with the talents and expertise she has brought to our small-but-mighty team.  

Have you seen the impact that the organization’s work is having on the community?

Catherine:  Returning Veterans Project provides post-9/11 war zone vets, service members, and their families access to free confidential mental and physical health services. The ability to receive support under the veil of privacy and without the stigma associated with mental health challenges is crucial. Sadly, a recent study suggested that 22 veterans commit suicide on average each day. Local VA hospitals and medical providers are overwhelmed with the tremendous need and many veterans who could use counseling, especially those still serving, worry about the possibility of retribution. Returning Veterans Project provides our veterans and service members an opportunity to heal and rebuild and also extends its support to their families whom are often forgotten especially when the person who served has passed. 

A necessary “by-product” of our commitment to absolute confidentiality is that we don’t often hear firsthand the impact our organization has on the people it serves. That said, we get enough feedback from clients, volunteers, and community organizations (including the VA, which refers to us regularly) that tells us we are delivering a critical and effective service. We recently received a testimonial that sums up exactly what we hope to offer to all of our clients: “I am an OIF US Army Veteran who has been deployed twice. Now that I’m home…my second mission is to work out the problems that develop as the result of long, painful separations from my family. Thanks to the great help I received from a marriage and family counselor through RVP, my marriage is doing much better.”  The impact on that veteran, that veteran’s family, and his community is clearly far-reaching and drives us to ensure all our clients have that experience and to expand our services to ensure all post-9/11 vets, service members, and their families get access to the care they need.

"The ability to receive support under the veil of privacy and without the stigma associated with mental health challenges is crucial." 
- Catherine Gaffigan, Cambia Vice President Network Management and Provider Partnership Innovation

What does it mean to you for Cambia to provide this program?

Catherine:  Overall, the company has been a fantastic resource for both me and Returning Veterans Project. They have given me the time necessary to be a productive board member and provided financial support through leadership funds and by matching personal donations.

Additionally, the Corporate Social Responsibility team has enabled me to increase my knowledge and skills as a board member. They offered insight and context about what to expect when working with a non-profit organization and talked through the processes and issues that arose during our search for a new executive director.

In addition to my efforts with Returning Veterans Project, I am the executive sponsor for Cambia’s Military Community Employee Resource Group (MCERG). MCERG brings awareness to and celebrates our diverse veteran community who help bring Cambia’s mission to life; serving those who served, their families, the community, and Cambia.

Both the executive board placement program and the employee resource group give me the ability to pursue my personal passion to support our service members, fellow veterans, and their families and ultimately make Cambia a great place to work!

For more information about the Executive Board Placement program, please contact Alison Arella at (503) 414-7849 or via email at alison.arella@cambiahealth.com.


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