War Within Initiative raises money to help erase military medical debt

Introducing ‘The War Within’

A 10-part documentary series from McClatchy Studios follows three U.S. veterans living with PTSD. Watch the full series at
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A 10-part documentary series from McClatchy Studios follows three U.S. veterans living with PTSD. Watch the full series at

What is the War Within Initiative?

The War Within Initiative has two components. The first is the Facebook Watch documentary series The War Within, which follows three Afghanistan war veterans struggling with PTSD and the other challenges of reintegration. The second is a company-wide fundraising effort in partnership with a 501(c)(3) charitable organization called RIP Medical Debt, which buys medical debt in bulk, at a deep discount, and then forgives it. Our newsroom and the 29 others owned by our parent company, McClatchy, are working with RIP Medical Debt to help raise money to abolish millions of dollars in medical debt owed by military families. All of the money raised goes directly to the charity.

I looked at the RIP Medical Debt website. They don’t just target military medical debt. Why are you saying the money will go to military families?

The organization’s mission is to eliminate medical debt for those in need generally, but our campaign with the group specifically targets the medical debt of servicemembers, veterans and their families, regardless of whether that medical debt is service-related.

$10 pays off $1,000 in debt? How is that possible? And if that’s true why can’t the people who owe the money just pay it off themselves?

The organization is run by two former debt collections executives who use contributions to buy large portfolios of debt at a steep discount. Then, instead of trying to collect on the debt, they simply forgive it. Because of this, the organization can’t target a specific individual’s debt for resolution--and an individual would not be offered the opportunity to settle their debt at the bulk-discount rates the organization can negotiate.

It sounds too good to be true. Is this group real?

The organization is real. Many others have worked with it in the past. Here’s a story and a video from the Kansas City Star about others who have raised money for the group:

Allison Edwards explains how she and a group of other doctors donated $11,000 to pay off $1.47 million in medical debts for people in Kansas and Missouri.

Here are two recent stories from the New York Times and the Associated Press, respectively:

And here’s HBO’s John Oliver forgiving $15 million in debt through the organization back in 2016:

How can military families have medical debt? I thought active duty military families all had 100 percent coverage and veterans all got free healthcare through the VA.

Many people believe that all service members and veterans and their immediate families get all of their healthcare for free, but for a host of reasons this simply isn’t always the case. For example, Raleigh News & Observer story that gives some sense of how imperfect the system can be in practice:

And here are a few more examples:

Why are you raising money to abolish military medical debt instead of helping another way?

Financial problems are a huge stressor for military families. Debt is associated with an increased risk of depression, substance abuse, homelessness and suicide. Targeting military medical debt directly helps families who may be struggling with health issues in addition to financial problems, and it ensures that the donations address a true need.

I still have questions.

If you have additional questions or would like more information on the War Within Initiative, please email Thank you!