Veterans and kidney disease

The American Kidney Fund (AKF) has partnered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration to increase awareness of kidney disease among U.S. veterans and to support veterans who have been diagnosed with kidney disease.

Woman in Army uniform and child

As a group, veterans have higher rates of chronic kidney disease (CKD) than the general U.S. population. While kidney disease affects 1 in 7 Americans, it affects about 1 in 6 veterans, including more than 40,000 VA-enrolled veterans with kidney failure (end-stage renal disease or ESRD) who rely on dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

Kidney disease risk factors

Diabetes is one of the biggest factors that increases your risk for kidney disease and its the number one cause of kidney failure. A healthy eating plan, being active and medicine can help manage diabetes and prevent health problems like kidney damage. More than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes.

High blood pressure is one of the biggest factors that increases your risk for kidney disease and it is the #2 cause of kidney failure. Keeping your blood pressure under control can help prevent kidney disease, or help keep it from getting worse. About 1 in 3 U.S. adults has high blood pressure.

Other risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • Having a family member with kidney disease
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian
  • Being over 60 years old
  • Having heart disease
  • Being obese
  • Smoking
  • Having a history of acute kidney injury (AKI)

Download a guide to help you talk to your doctor about your risk for kidney disease.

Learn more about how to prevent kidney disease.

Managing your kidney disease

If you have kidney disease caused by diabetes or high blood pressure, there are steps you can take to manage your kidney disease and keep your kidneys from failing. Eating the right foods, taking your medicine as directed, and working with your doctor can keep your kidney disease from getting worse.

Download our free resource "Know how to manage your kidney disease for veterans."

Download a guide to help you talk to your doctor about managing your kidney disease.

Learn more about how to slow down your kidney disease.

Benefits for veterans

Veterans with kidney disease may be eligible for any one of AKF's grants or financial assistance programs. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers enrolled veterans kidney services that can help slow down and prevent kidney failure, including screening to prevent kidney failure, early management of kidney disease, kidney biopsy to assess for kidney disorders, management of blood pressure, anemia, bone disorders, and kidney stones, in-center or home dialysis, and kidney transplantation. Click here to download a handout with more information.

Veterans, Kidney Disease & Diabetes: Mental Health Burdens of Chronic Illness

Our Kidney Action Week panelists discuss the unique experiences of veterans living with kidney disease as well as background on its two leading risk factors: diabetes and high blood pressure.

Coffee Chat with the Veterans Health Administration | American Kidney Fund

Watch the conversation between Erica Scavella, M.D., FACP,  FACH, Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Clinical Services, VHA and LaVarne Burton, President and CEO, American Kidney Fund, about CKD and how it impacts the veteran population.