Care for veterans

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Recent revelations and allegations that veterans hospitals around the country manipulated data by creating secret waiting lists are shocking and disgraceful. When the United States deploys men and women to fight its wars, it owes them, above all, competent and timely disability benefits and health care upon their return. As one way to improve the health of our veterans, I’m glad the Department of Veterans Affairs is now allowing more veterans to seek care by non-VA clinicians.

However, neither non-VA clinicians nor VA clinicians may be acutely aware of the unique health concerns linked to military service including deployment, redeployment, integration and reintegration into their family, community and workplace, if any, upon their return. As a result, I’m deeply concerned that non-VA clinicians along with some VA clinicians may not be properly trained for the influx of veterans, thus creating a vicious ever widening gap of non-comprehensive health care.

To meet this need, the American Academy of Nursing has partnered with state VA departments to integrate the question “Have you ever served in the military?” into all clinicians’ screening and assessments. This simple question, which clinicians invariably ask patients who enter their care, could help with timely application of the three levels of prevention: primary, secondary and tertiary into the health care of every patient who served in the military.

Associate Professor
University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing

The writer is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

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