Prosthetic advances: Making soldiers “whole”

Prosthetic advances Making soldiers whole

Prosthetic advances: Making soldiers “whole”

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

When discussing military deployment, many often think of two scenarios – the best case and the worst case. Less discussed, however, is the event that a soldier will come home missing a piece of him or herself. While nothing can truly undo the experiences of combat and bodily harm, prosthetic advances are improving every day to help make soldiers feel physically complete again.

The road from the first peg legs and hand hooks to the computerized prosthetic leg began nearly 3,000 years ago. From the ancient Egyptians through the middle Ages to present-day conflicts in the Middle East, there has been a constant evolution that has led to the highly individualized fitting and casting of today’s devices.

One company that is still making a difference today got its start back in 1905 when a bilateral amputee in Ohio used Willow wood as the medium to carve his handmade prosthetic limbs. He founded the Ohio Willow Wood company, which is a pioneer in custom-made prosthetic devices for amputees.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs has thrown its support into the development of state-of-the-art prosthetic pieces and innovations. Soldiers who have lost their limbs from IEDs and older veterans who have suffered the same outcome from diabetes and vascular disease are now benefiting from those innovations. The longer veterans can stay mobile, the healthier they will be.

The research, innovations and advancements have undoubtedly helped thousands of veterans – but the benefits have reached beyond the military world. While there are countless civilians who have been able to take advantage of the prosthetic device advances, the uncounted number is perhaps the most staggering: the number of military spouses and families that have benefited from their soldier becoming “whole” once again.

Military Connection: VA’s $16.3b Won’t Last Long: By Debbie Gregory

VA MoneyThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is claiming that the $16.3 billion that was allotted through the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 (Veterans Choice Act) is not going to be enough to provide adequate care, long term.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald predicts that in the coming decades, Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will require even more care, possibly peaking 30 to 40 years from now. The VA’s leader said that the department will need more money to care for Veterans.

Many Americans believe that the seemingly huge sum allotted by the Veterans Choice Act was supposed to fix the VA and provide long-term healthcare for Veterans. But even though the wars seem to be winding down, the claims made by the Iraq and Afghanistan War-era Veterans will likely peak again in 40 years, and the duration of benefits will last even longer. McDonald noted that VA records show that there are still approximately 100 Veteran dependents from the Spanish-American War, and one dependent from a Civil War Veteran who still receive benefits.

The $16.3 billion allotted by the Veterans Choice Act is broken down into smaller provisions. The bill allots $10 billion for the utilization of private care at hospitals and clinics outside the VA, and $5 billion for the department to hire more doctors, nurses and other medical staff. The other $1.5 billion can be spent on leases to use other medical facilities at 27 sites around the country.

Back in July, before the Veterans Choice Act was approved, Sloan Gibson, who was acting-secretary, said that the VA needed $17.6 billion over the next three years to reform patient wait times at VA facilities. Note that Gibson’s amount was more than what the VA received, and it was estimated to fix the wait time issue only.

The next  request for funds by the VA could fall on deaf ears as lawmakers return to Washington to hammer out fiscal 2015 spending bills, with a look towards 2016.

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Military Connection: VA’s $16.3b won’t Last Long: By Debbie Gregory