Find common veterans health and medical topics starting with the letter R that are related to military service. The guide covers health topics from A to Z. Read on for more information about rabies, radiology, respite care, and more VA health topics in the R category.
This is an ongoing series and more veterans health topics and letters are coming soon.
Note: What follows should not be taken as medical advice and is not intended as a diagnosis. This page is general information related to common veterans conditions and should not replace advice from your health care provider.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is warning deployed and soon-to-be-deployed service members about the dangers of rabies in certain forward-deployed locations. The VA official site specifically mentions the following military operations with an elevated risk of rabies through the bite of “a warm-blooded animal,” or contact with an infected animal’s saliva:
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Any military service in Afghanistan
- Any military service in Iraq
These locations are known for not vaccinating animals against rabies. In general, any type of exposure to an infected animal could be a high risk for rabies depending on the nature of that exposure. The VA official site says that anyone deployed to the areas mentioned above should seek medical attention after exposure in these areas to:
- Mongoose or exposure to a similar species
If your exposure has happened in the last 18 months or so, seek medical attention even if you feel enough time has passed without symptoms. With rabies, there may be no symptoms at all until it is too late.
The VA official site warns, “If you were exposed to rabies, you may not have any symptoms. By the time any symptoms appear, rabies often cannot be successfully treated.”
Rabies symptoms can include anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing, and even a fear of water. Once such symptoms are manifest, it may be too late to prevent death or permanent damage to the body, which is why it’s crucial to be evaluated for any suspected rabies exposure.
Radiology uses a variety of imaging techniques including X-rays and ultrasound to diagnose illnesses and treat them. A radiographer is often used to accomplish this using one or more of the following:
- Computer Tomography (CT)
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
When getting care in the VA health care system, you can view, print, or download VA Radiology reports from the VA official site via the My HealtheVet or the VA Blue Button service. These radiology reports are made available to patients roughly three days after completion.
To be eligible to view these radiology reports, you must be enrolled at a VA health care facility, be enrolled in My HealtheVet, and have an active My HealtheVet Premium account.
Readjustment counseling is offered to eligible service members, vets, and family members when it’s time to make the transition from military to civilian life. The VA official site describes these services which may include the following:
- Individual and group counseling
- Mental health screenings for Traumatic Brain Injury, depression, etc.
- Family counseling for military related issues
- Bereavement counseling
- Military sexual trauma counseling
- Substance abuse assessment and referral
- Employment assessment & referral
- VBA benefits counseling
This readjustment counseling is offered to any servicemember, veteran, and qualifying family members who have been affected by combat, deployment to war zones, etc. The counseling is offered at vet centers, and vet center services are “prepaid through military service.” Get more information by calling 877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a free health registry evaluation for those who may have been exposed to environmental hazards as a result of military service. There are multiple VA health registries that include the following issues:
- Agent Orange Registry
- Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry
- Gulf War Registry (includes Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn)
- Ionizing Radiation Registry
- Depleted Uranium Follow-Up Program
- Toxic Embedded Fragment Surveillance Center
These registries have individual evaluations which are separate from VA disability compensation procedures-these registries and their evaluations are not intended to “confirm exposure to environmental hazards during military service” for the purposes of approving VA compensation for such exposure where appropriate. You can get more information about these registries and how to participate at the VA official site.
VA Respite Care pays for qualified veterans to get in-home or in-residence care while allowing the primary caregiver to take a break and tend to personal needs. VA Respite Care services may be provided for those needing skilled in-patient care, in-home care, or outpatient services.
Respite care offers help with daily living chores including meals, bathing, taking medicine, dressing, etc. and can be used in combination with other VA services. Veterans who are house-bound, isolated in rural areas, and/or have only one care provider can greatly benefit from VA respite care; learn if you or a loved one qualifies.
In general VA respite care is available to any qualifying veteran who has a demonstrated medical need for the care and lives in an area where the service is available. The VA official site states this care is available on an individual basis for up to 30 days per year. Respite care is offered in the following ways including visits by a Home Health Aide, attendance in a VA nursing home or community living center, or attendance at an adult day health care center.
Military members may be exposed to certain types of radiation while serving in uniform. The Department of Veterans Affairs official site states that in general, two types of radiation exposure are possible; ionizing radiation and the non-ionizing variety. Again, this is a very general description and not intended to be an exhaustive look at radiation issues.
Common sources of exposure include, but are definitely not limited to, this list created by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA adds that if you have served in any of the following situations or circumstances, you may have been exposed to radiation. You should discuss any possible exposure with a healthcare provider.
- Radiological cleanup of Enewetak Atoll: There were more than 40 nuclear tests on Enewetak Proving Ground at Enewetak Atoll from 1948 to 1958. There were also radiation cleanup efforts there between 1977 and 1980.
- S. Air Force plutonium clean-up mission, Palomares, Spain: The VA describes a nuclear weapons mishap in the mid-1960s, “…when a United States Air Force (USAF) B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker aircraft collided.” The VA reports that this led to “the release of four nuclear weapons” that resulted in a release of plutonium but did not result in a detonation. The VA reports that roughly 1600 people including troops “were potentially exposed to airborne dust and debris contaminated with plutonium.”
- Fukushima nuclear accident: A nuclear disaster at Fukushima may have exposed service members stationed in certain parts of Japan to radiation in 2011.
- Radiation-risk activity: This category includes “Atomic Veterans” who may have been involved with nuclear weapons testing, or with the United States military occupation of Japan near sites including Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- “Occupational Exposure” such as working as a nuclear weapons tech, serving on board a nuclear submarine, working with X-ray equipment, etc.
- Depleted Uranium Exposure: The VA refers to exposure to depleted uranium, which is used in some United States military armor and “some bullets.” Depleted uranium is described as a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process.
Depleted uranium is not as radioactive as other forms of uranium, but it is the official view of the Department of Veterans that depleted uranium “retains the same chemical toxicity as natural uranium. During an explosion, pieces of depleted uranium used in tank armor and some bullets can scatter and embed in muscle and soft tissue.” If you were exposed to depleted uranium in any way during military service, contact the VA or your primary health care provider. Ionizing radiation exposure comes from a variety of sources, including nuclear weapons testing or other activities during military service.
The VA urges affected service members and veterans to consider participating in the Ionizing Radiation Registry health exam in order to get early detection of any service-connected medical issues in this area.
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