Find common veterans health and medical topics starting with the letter S that are related to military service. The guide covers health topics from A to Z. Read on for more information about Seasonal flu, service dogs, solvent exposure, and more VA health topics in the S 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.
Safety, Patient (National Center for)
Created in 1999, the VA National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS) is part of the VA Office of Quality, Safety, and Value and is dedicated to promoting a “culture of safety throughout the Veterans Health Administration.” Part of this VA center’s mission is to prevent “inadvertent harm to patients as a result of their care.”
NCPS uses Root Cause Analysis, a team-focused approach to studying health care issues such as adverse events, “close calls,” etc. Each instance of a close call or adverse event is reviewed to determine its cause, how to prevent it in the future, etc.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has placed Patient Safety Managers at more than 160 VA medical centers. There are also Patient Safety Officers at more than 20 VA regional headquarters. The VA’s stated goal is to target processes and systemic issues that can potentially lead to patient harm.
The official site states, “We don’t target people; we don’t want to participate in the “name and blame” culture of the past. We look for ways to break that link in the chain of events that can create a recurring problem.”
If you need to speak to a Patient Safety Officer or Patient Safety Manager, ask for help at your nearest VA medical facility, or call the VA directly at their toll-free number 1-800-827-1000 for assistance.
Seasonal Influenza, also known as the flu, spreads via the nose and mouth. Symptoms usually involve body aches, chills, sore throat, coughing, and headaches. This virus, not to be confused with pandemic flu outbreaks, occurs every year during “flu season” and potentially affects roughly 20% of the United States population each year.
Seasonal flu is a common problem for healthy people, but it can be far more dangerous for those who have compromised immune systems. Other vulnerable populations include the elderly, those suffering from other medical conditions, and children.
Seasonal flu outbreaks are not the same as occurrences of “stomach flu”; these are two separate medical issues. Seasonal flu can be vaccinated against, but it’s critical to employ other measures to stop the spread of flu including frequent hand washing, avoiding contact with sick people if you are healthy, and avoiding contact with healthy people if you are sick.
There are many VA options for senior care; in the 21st century the VA has a wide range of help available for those veterans in need of assistance with extended care, in-home care, adult day care, palliative care, etc.
The number of options in this area is quite diverse and many of the programs for VA senior care are based on eligibility for the VA health care system. In some cases if you are eligible for basic VA health care, you may also qualify for VA senior care when the time is right.
The VA official site reminds that while all VA health care-enrolled Veterans are eligible for senior care services, to get the service you must have a clinical need for it, and the service must be available in your location.
Some VA senior care services are available based on priority level established by the veteran’s disability rating/level. Payment options will vary depending on the type of care required, the duration and intensity of the care. In some cases there may be no co-pay, in others there may be specific co-pay requirements that must be met as a condition of care.
The VA Geriatrics and Extended Care Services program includes in-residence care, nursing homes, palliative care, adult day care, and hospice. To determine both your or a loved one’s level of need, the benefits available, and locations to get care, talk first to your primary care provider or a VA representative at your nearest VA regional office or health care center.
Service Connected Disabilities
Service connected disabilities are those medical conditions, illnesses, injuries, etc. that have a definite association with military service. Not all service-connected disabilities or medical issues are combat-related, and not all occur while the servicemember is actually on duty.
A service-connected medical problem may not have started with military duty or service, but can be complicated or aggravated by it.
The VA official site advises veterans that VA disability compensation for service-connected disabilities is available for those who undergo a claims process and is open to those with any discharge not characterized as Dishonorable.
The amount of compensation you may qualify for in connection with a VA claim will vary depending on the condition, its duration and severity, federal guidelines for paying compensation, and other variables.
Qualifying veterans with VA disability ratings of at least 30 percent “are eligible for additional allowances” for spouses and minor children.
There may also be benefits for children between the ages of 18 and 23 who are attending school, and the VA also provides guidance for compensation in situations where the qualifying veteran has a child or children “who are permanently incapable of self-support because of a disability arising before age 18.”
It is best to file a claim for VA compensation for service-connected medical issues before retiring or separating from military service, but if you were unable to do that, call the VA as soon as possible at 1-800-827-1000 to ask how to get started filing your VA medical claims.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has programs to help provide qualifying veterans with service animals; these animals are meant for vets who are VA-diagnosed with hearing, vision, or mobility impairment.
The program is basically insurance, offering benefits for one service dog at a time. Each service dog must be trained, and each dog must be VA-approved for the program based on training and other factors.
While the VA itself does not provide for or train service dogs, it does provide referrals for both the dogs and training for owner and animal. This training is conducted via VA-approved agencies that meet accreditation standards set by Assistance Dogs International and/or the International Guide Dog Federation.
Assistance dogs (or other animals) are not the same as therapy animals, and therapy animals or emotional support animals do not generally get the same kind of training required of a service dog.
If a support animal is required instead of a service animal, the process may be simplified (or obtaining one) but this is not a VA activity. The VA benefit is strictly for trained service animals, not therapy animals.
Under the VA service dog program, the veteran is not charged for animal-related premiums, deductibles, or copays, but the veteran must pay “for any cost of care that exceeds the maximum amount authorized by the policy for a particular procedure, course of treatment, or policy year.”
The VA official site states that in cases where a service dog requires care that costs more than the policy covers, advance notice must be provided whenever feasible to the veteran.
Learn more about the VA service dog program or sign up via your primary healthcare provider.
The Department of Veterans Affairs uses a term, “military sexual assualt” or MST, to describe any form of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault a soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, or Marine may encounter while serving. The term MST refers to all of the above plus what the VA describes as, “sexual activity that you are involved with against your will.”
Have you ever been pressured into sexual situations? Have you ever been the recipient of threats of negative treatment, or promises of better treatment in exchange for sexual involvement in any way? Sexual assault and harassment includes, but is not limited to such circumstances.
Others may include:
- Unwanted comments, staring, or other inappropriate behavior
- Being forced to have sex
- Being touched in ways that make you feel uncomfortable
- Unwanted sexual advances
Any one of any gender may experience sexual harassment from any other person, gender, position of authority or as a subordinate. There are symptoms that may arise in those who have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault. These can include sleep disturbances, nightmares, hypervigilance, substance abuse, depression, and many others.
You can seek help from the VA by calling your nearest VA health center, contacting your primary care provider, or by calling the VA directly at 1-800 827-1000 to request more information on VA help for military sexual assault-related issues.
The condition known as Shingles is basically an infection caused by the same virus as Chicken Pox. While not everyone who has had Chicken Pox will get Shingles, there is a risk.
According to the VA official site, some will carry the virus without symptoms or problems (often for extended periods) only to have the virus suddenly activate and cause symptoms including blisters or rashes. Such symptoms can persist as long as four weeks.
Those who develop Shingles are also at risk for Chicken Pox.
Some of the preliminary symptoms are mistaken for other medical issues. You may experience skin pain or sensations of burning, numbness, or tingling. Some will develop flu-like symptoms and many who experience such indicators may be lucky enough to ride out the infection with little or no major issues.
The VA states that one in five patients may develop a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia. This has led to a condition some described as post-Shingles depression, and this is something to take seriously if you experience symptoms of any kind.
Shingles is treated with antiviral drugs which may take as long as 72 hours to show results.
Spinal Cord Injury
Veterans who have service-connected spinal cord injuries have a range of information, help, and care available from the VA.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has developed the Spinal Cord Injuries and Disorders (SCI/D) System of Care, which is dedicated to coordinated, “life-long continuum of services for Veterans with a spinal cord injury or disorder.”
The VA serves veterans with spinal issues “in a convenient and connected network that delivers care for each phase of life.” The VA official site provides a number of resources for those who need VA help with care related to spinal injuries.
When too much (or not enough) blood causes a disruption to the flow of blood to the brain, a stroke can happen. When parts of the brain are deprived of blood (which carries oxygen among other things), the brain cells die, brain function can become diminished, and death is possible depending on the duration and severity of the stroke.
A stroke can be mistaken for other medical problems, and the VA warns that in such cases treatment can be delayed. Unfortunately, when it comes to cases of stroke, delays can create complications which may or may not be permanent, depending.
Your risk of stroke is affected by lifestyle choices including food, exercise or lack of it, alcohol use, and other factors. High blood pressure, weight-related issues, previous illnesses, and prior injuries can also increase your risk for strokes.
It’s best to consult with your primary care provider if you feel you have been at risk, experience early warning signs such as blurry vision or slurred speech, etc.
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