Physicians Treating Veterans
The AOA is a partner in the Joining Forces initiative, a national initiative that mobilizes all sectors of society to give service members and their families the support they earned. An important component of the Joining Forces initiative is ensuring that medical students, physicians and other health care providers understand that an individual’s physical and/or mental condition may be linked to his/her military experience.
The AOA is raising awareness in the osteopathic community about the importance of having a comprehensive understanding of the unique physical and mental health care needs of our service members, veterans, and their families.
Pledge of Support
The nation’s 26 osteopathic medical schools have pledged their support to:
Train current and future osteopathic physicians in the unique clinical challenges and best practices associated with caring for military service members, veterans, and their families
Spread the most up-to-date information about traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Grow the body of knowledge leading to improvements in health care and wellness for service members and families
Join with others to strengthen the supportive community of physicians, institutions and health care providers dedicated to improving the health of military service members, veterans, and families.
Military Medical History
With more than 50% of U.S. veterans seeking health care outside of the VA system, it is important for practicing physicians to have a complete military medical history of their patients. The osteopathic approach of treating the whole person, not just symptoms, plays an important role in providing medical care to our military veterans and their families. The osteopathic physician should consider asking patients about the following:
Whether they have served in the U.S. military, and if so, when and where
Illness or injury during service
Hospitalization, blood transfusion, or medication during service
Exposure to chemical or biological agents
Drug use, such as heroin or cocaine
Exposure to physical conditions such heat, fire, radiation, loud noises, cramped enclosures, or dehydration
Exposure to trauma
Sexual harassment, abuse
Thoughts or attempts of suicide
Depending the type of military service and when and where they served, veterans could be at risk for health problems such as:
Disability Benefits Questionnaires
In an effort to give veterans more control over disability claims processing, the Department of Veterans Affairs has created Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQ). Veterans now have the option of seeing a private health care practitioner, instead of going to a VA facility, to complete the disability evaluation form. Physician practices can help our nation’s veterans get the benefits they deserve by assisting them with the disability claims process. Currently, the VA faces a half million disability claims backlog which continues to grow. The DBQ program is part of the Joining Forces initiative. The AOA supports the goals of this program in order to provide veterans the health care services they need. To find out more about how physicians can help veterans, visit the DBQ program website.
Health Issues Impact Veterans' Families, Too
The veteran’s military experience and its aftereffects can also have an impact on family members, such as the spouse and children. Often, when a parent is deployed, the child will develop physical and emotional conditions such as stomach aches, loss of appetite, sleeping disorders, moodiness, tantrums, etc. Family members also may experience secondary PTSD. In addition, birth defects may be linked to a veteran’s exposure to toxic elements while on active duty. For example, the "VA presumes that spina bifida in biological children of certain Vietnam-era Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange was caused by the Veterans’ military service."
The AOA is pleased to join with the White House and the greater medical community in helping osteopathic physicians help our service members, veterans, and their families maintain good health.