Providing Care For Our Veterans

Today’s entry was inspired by Dr. Lucile Burgo, a general internist at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System and National Co-Director of the Post-Deployment Integrated Care Initiative (and recent ACP Fellow!).  It is in honor of Veterans’ Day last week.  Dr. Burgo and colleagues have published a guide to the care of the returning combat veteran in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

It is important to recognize that of the nearly 1.5 million individuals who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and have since separated from the military, only about half have received care in the VA system.  That means a large group of veterans are receiving care from non-VA providers, indicating a need for familiarity with the particular needs of this population.

Dr. Burgo urged me to call your attention to two additional articles.  First, in this Annals On Being a Doctor piece, The Forever War, Dr. Ross Boyce chronicles the struggle of transitioning from soldier to physician and the unaddressed psychic pain caused by war.  Second, appearing in JAMA’s A Piece of My Mind series  in November 2012, is The Unasked Question by Dr. Jeffrey Brown.  Dr. Brown is a pediatrician and Vietnam War veteran; he reminds us the importance of taking a military service history.  To quote from his article: “Few of the veterans who visit their physician have the stereotyped appearance of young amputees, older men wearing gold-embroidered “I Am a Veteran” caps, or anxious patients taking tranquilizers. They represent one of every six average-looking adult male (and an increasing number of female) patients. And because they served their country, many are at risk for potentially serious problems that are not being addressed by our medical community.”  What better way to honor our country’s defenders than to acknowledge their experience and its important role in their overall health.

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