Population and Public Health

Honoring Veterans by Fighting for Better Access to Healthcare

Blake Schnitkey

On Nov. 11, countries around the world honor their military service members past and present by celebrating Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in the U.K. and the Commonwealth of Nations.

In the U.S., expanding and modernizing the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Veterans Health Administration are vital to improving access to high quality care for all veterans, many of whom are nearly twice as likely to suffer from multiple chronic health conditions than their non-veteran counterparts.

HIMSS President & CEO Hal Wolf has repeatedly testified to the U.S. House of Representatives and various subcommittees on how technology can help address veteran health issues.

About a third of veterans enrolled in the VA report having some level of disability that prevents them from living independently. Veterans also suffer higher rates of PTSD, substance abuse and suicide than their civilian counterparts.

The public agrees veterans need more healthcare support. A 2022 survey found that 86% of U.S. adults believe Congress should provide quality and affordable healthcare for veterans.

To better understand how we can support our veterans, we went directly to the source and spoke with U.S. Air Force vet Blake Schnitkey, senior brand and visual designer at HIMSS. In recognition of Veterans Day, Schnitkey offered his unique insights at the intersection of healthcare, creativity and support for veterans.

Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Blake Schnitkey, I am originally from a very small town in Ohio. I have an awesome wife, Sayward, and two kids aged 7 and 9. I am the HIMSS Senior Brand and Visual Designer. I make stuff pretty for HIMSS!

Why is the work you do at HIMSS important?

Like my fellow ‘HIMSSians,’ I truly believe in HIMSS’s mission. And I’m thrilled that we are bringing our mission to the entire globe. Working with our team around the world has been great. It’s been incredible to see how far we’ve grown in my 15 years at HIMSS.

Tell us a little about your service. What branch of the military did you serve, and why did you decide to join?

I was in the United States Air Force.

Well, it’s an adventure, isn’t it? I enlisted in April of 2001, then 9/11 happened just before I went to boot camp. It was a surreal experience to be enlisted during all of the turmoil. Things were very uncertain. The military instills a sense of civic pride and love of country that I am very grateful for. I wish more knew the feeling unique to having served.

How do you think your time in the military affected you?

Number one, first and foremost, is discipline. I believe the military is a great first step in anyone’s life, now having done it myself. I learned life skills, organizational skills and a love for a cause greater than myself. There is no better “graduate school” in the world!

Is there anything you wish civilians understood about military service?

The military is often seen as an alternative to traditional work roles, and sometimes negatively. But there is no better line of work to get the absolute best in education, discipline and comradery. Military members, current and former, are some of the most trustworthy and dedicated people in the world. It really creates incredible people.

Why is Veterans Day important, and how do you celebrate the day?

I’m still getting my feet on the ground in a new(ish) town, but I am heavily involved in the American Legion. I am a former Legion Commander of five years, so attending services as Color or Rifle Guard and shaking the hands of those who came before me is incredibly important to me. Fostering patriotism may be the legion’s stated goal, but veteran support is a gigantic part of what we do. Please support your local post!

What can civilians do to better support veterans on this day and year-round?

Just thank a veteran. It means so much. Take the time to make that call.

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