The Weak Link in Veterans’ Medical Care: An Expanded Role for Community Healthcare Providers

Eighty percent of military veterans receive most of their medical care from non-VA community providers. These providers do not identify them as veterans. The result is that service-related medical and psychological conditions are underdiagnosed, proper referrals are not made, and veterans do not receive services to which they are entitled. Community healthcare providers should know why and how to identify veterans and how to take a basic military health history.

Veterans' Medical Care
Veterans’ Medical Care

Few of my patients served in the military. False. The reason for this belief is that they don’t ask patients one simple question, “Have you or someone close to you (spouse, child, parent, partner) ever served in the military.” In 2014, nine percent of adults (16 percent of males) above the age of 18 years have served in the military.If my patient has a medical problem related to past military service, they would tell me. False. Most veterans will not offer this information unless you ask them. That is why the American Academy of Nursing has started an initiative, “Have You Ever Served?” It encourages veterans to tell providers and practitioners to ask their patients about military service.I can usually spot a military veteran by his or her appearance. False. Most veterans look like your other patients. They are not all amputees, psychologically disturbed, or wearing an “I am a Veteran” cap.

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