This Veterans Day, we’re reflecting on our commitment to support veterans and those currently serving who selflessly dedicate their lives to protecting our country. Nearly 4% of Cigna’s more than 70,000 employees self-identify as veterans. Their unique skills, character and sense of purpose are felt in every part of our company and in every customer interaction.
We are committed to the veteran community here at Cigna and have received the prestigious Military Friendly Employer designation annually since 2018, surpassing Military Friendly’s benchmarks in all categories, including hiring and onboarding veterans and military spouses, opportunity and advancement, culture and commitment, support and retention, policies and compliance and recruiting and sourcing. This year, Cigna also received recognition as a Military Friendly Spouse Employer and was named a top company on the Military Times Best for Vets Employer list.
“While it’s an honor and privilege to serve in the military, members of the veteran and military community make many sacrifices to protect and serve our country,” said Jenkins. “As an enterprise, we’re proud to call them our co-workers, friends and family, and we value their unique skills and professionalism in the workplace. This Veterans Day, and every day, we thank the brave men and women who have served and are serving in our armed forces.”
To support the health and well-being of the veteran community — both within our workforce and in the community at large — Cigna has established a number of programs and resources, and through the Cigna Foundation, has made charitable grants to support nonprofit organizations serving veterans’ needs. Read on to learn more about the ways Cigna supports veterans and military families.
Helping Medicare-Eligible Veterans Enhance Their Health Care Coverage
Figuring out health care options can be complicated. For veterans who qualify for Medicare, those options might be more numerous — and more advantageous — than they realize.
“We’re working to support veterans in the senior space,” said Shawn McGinty, who served on submarines in the Navy for six years. His team is educating older veterans about how they can use original Medicare, Medicare Advantage (MA), and Medicare supplements in tandem with their Veteran’s Administration (VA) benefits to enhance their health care coverage. For example, MA plans may offer dental, vision or hearing benefits. Some plans may even help defray the costs of owning a service animal or help veterans pay for home modifications that enhance accessibility.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, the U.S. is home to 19 million veterans, including 7 million who are 65 or older. A total of 9 million veterans of all ages are enrolled in the VA health care program. “Lots of veterans think that by enrolling in VA services, you take money from other beneficiaries,” he said, but the VA is allocated an annual amount of funding for each veteran who signs up — whether or not they use any services. “The money goes to your local VA budget,” he said, so signing up is a way to make sure the system is well funded.
McGinty and his team are getting the word out to veterans by developing and providing educational materials internally at Cigna and to independent agencies, who work one-on-one with consumers to evaluate the plans available to them. His team is also partnering with veterans organizations that help their members with day-to-day needs and working to build resources, such as a free support line available 24/7 to all veterans and their families.
“Veterans are all unique, all with specific, completely different needs,” McGinty said. “The most important thing we are doing is making sure we have the right plans to offer and offering education to the people who are talking to the veterans, to help them evaluate and determine what fits best.”
Although McGinty is relatively new to Cigna, he’s been impressed from the start that people across the organization — including nonveterans — are so committed to serving veterans in numerous ways. “Before I came to Cigna, I considered how I could take my knowledge and skills and apply that to help other people,” he said. “In this job, I can apply what I’ve learned by being a veteran as well.”
Creating a Safe Space for Veterans and the Military Community: Cigna’s Salute Enterprise Resource Group
Enterprise Resource Groups play a critical role in Cigna’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by encouraging all employees to bring their whole selves to work. Our Salute ERG provides Cigna’s veterans, spouses and families and allies with opportunities for networking, mentoring, personal and professional development and community service.
“Offering a safe, supportive space for our members is of utmost importance,” said Ayanna Bernard, Salute co-lead, scrum master senior advisor and U.S. Army veteran. “We’re there for each other, ensuring that our members have access to the resources they need — particularly mental health resources and support during challenging times. The group regularly gets together to share personal experiences and resources, for example, during the recent invasion of Ukraine or the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.”
Salute’s resources include a Battle Buddy Program and monthly coffee chats, which build camaraderie and network.
“Military spouses and family members are the backbones of our nation’s service members,” said Alexa Minnocci, Salute co-lead, internal audit advisor and spouse of a retired U.S. Navy submariner. “They provide the support needed toward mission readiness, often at the sacrifice of their well-being and professional journeys. It is our responsibility to say ‘thank you’ and, in return, provide these special family members with support to ensure their success as Cigna employees.”
Salute also works to educate the business on the unique skills that our veteran and military colleagues offer. In recent years, Salute has partnered with Cigna’s talent acquisition team to help recruiters and hiring managers understand military-specific resumes, connecting human resources directly with employee veterans from all branches of the military for collaboration. Additionally, Cigna fields ambassador teams in local communities that partner with military installations, colleges and community programs to translate the job skills of veterans and military spouses and match them with open roles.
“The lived experiences are really different for military families and veterans,” said Alexandra Bradley, former Salute co-lead, Informatics Consultant and lifelong member of the military community. “Millions of Americans have served in the military — ensuring military skillsets are better understood and valued by our organization, and building relationships and trust, is crucial.”
Giving Back to the Veteran Community
Cigna has long been involved with volunteer efforts in veteran communities. One of many examples is our continued partnership with Achilles International, a global organization that transforms the lives of people with disabilities through athletic programs and social connections. Cigna is proud to serve as the presenting sponsor of the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, specifically adapted to the specific needs of members of the U.S. military. Over the years, Cigna has proudly sponsored the Walt Disney World Marathon, the Hope and Possibility 4 Mile Run, and the Marine Corps Marathon. At all these events, Team Cigna guides and support runners were side by side with Achilles’ athletes, encouraging and supporting them to the finish line.
Another example of Cigna’s longstanding commitment is our support for the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight, which arranges transport for America’s most senior military veterans to Washington D.C. so they may experience the memorials honoring those lost. After having been grounded nationwide due to COVID-19, the flights resumed in 2021, with Salute “Go Local” ambassadors and volunteers helping support veterans during their arrival and departure, as well as accompanying them on their flights.
In honor of Veteran’s Day 2022, Cigna employees gathered to support Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service of our military and first responders by creating opportunities to express gratitude through care packages. Employees came together in Connecticut, Tennessee, Missouri and New Jersey, packing hygiene kits and care packages to help veterans who are suffering from hygiene insecurity. Employees across the country who were unable to gather in person hand wrote letters and cards for veterans who are feeling a lack of companionship or community.
Providing Support for Veterans Across the Nation
Deployments can take a toll on the mental health and well-being of veterans, those currently serving and military families. Left untreated, these invisible wounds can have devastating effects. According to the RAND Center, people affected with depression, PTSD and traumatic brain injury can exhibit higher rates of other unhealthy behaviors, physical health problems, and suicide.
Cigna established the Veteran Support Line, a free resource for veterans and their families that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Those in need can call 855.244.6211 toll-free to receive information on services and resources for pain management, substance use counseling and treatment, financial issues, food, clothing, housing, safety, transportation, parenting and child care, aging services, health insurance, legal assistance and more. Cigna also offers a number of other resources for veterans, including training in mindfulness stress management, acceptance and compassion.
Additionally, the Cigna Foundation supports veterans by making charitable grants and donations to nonprofit organizations to support programs that address military community needs in ways that are sustainable, scalable and effective. In 2022, the foundation has provided $425,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations that help provide emergency assistance, mental health resources, transition support and other helpful resources for service members, veterans and their families — including the Service Women’s Action Network, EOD Warrior Foundation, the COMMIT Foundation and Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“As the nation honors our veterans and active service members this Veterans Day, we at Cigna extend our gratitude and support to all of those who have made sacrifices to serve and protect our country,” said Tim Strawman, Chief Security Officer and HR sponsor of Salute. “Supporting members of the veteran and military community is a long-standing part of Cigna’s culture and we are proud of their many contributions to our company on behalf of the customers we serve.”