Parkinson’s Foundation, VA Team Up to Help Vets Manage Disease

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by Mary Chapman |

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Veterans with Parkinson's

Of the roughly 1 million U.S. residents with Parkinson’s disease, some 110,000 are veterans. To improve this population’s health, well-being, and quality of life, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has formed a partnership with the Parkinson’s Foundation.

The intent of the collaboration is to ensure that veterans diagnosed with Parkinson’s have the information and resources needed to effectively manage their condition, which has an economic burden of Parkinson’s of nearly $52 billion annually, according to a recent study published by the Michael J. Fox Foundation with support from the Parkinson’s Foundation and others.

“We’ve found that veterans are not always aware of the Parkinson’s-related resources and services available through the VA, which leads to them being underserved in terms of healthcare access,” Veronica “Ronnie” Todaro, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Parkinson’s Foundation, said in a press release.

“Our partnership with the VA is designed to improve our understanding of priorities so we can fill those gaps. We want to make sure Parkinson’s is identified early so that people can engage with providers who have experience with the disease, as well as have the information they need to best manage their PD,” said Todaro.

About half of veterans are at least age 65, putting them at greater risk for Parkinson’s, which usually manifests in patients 50 and older. In addition, many veterans have sustained traumatic head injury or have been exposed to environmental hazards, both of which are associated with Parkinson’s development. In particular, those who served from 1962 to 1975 are at an increased risk of the progressive disease due to the military’s tactical use of the herbicide Agent Orange.

Specifically, the partnership seeks to heighten access to Parkinson’s information, resources, and providers. It also wants to educate veterans and healthcare professionals about best practices in Parkinson’s management, and to help veterans navigate Parkinson’s-related health and social services.

Veterans and their families can start by learning more about the VA’s Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers. Located across the nation, these centers are staffed by leading movement disorder specialists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, scientists, social workers, and other Parkinson’s specialists.

The centers can help veterans manage Parkinson’s and other movement disorders through VA pharmacy benefits, physical, occupational, and speech therapies, medical equipment, surgical services, and other resources.

For its part, the Parkinson’s Foundation offers information for veterans, including new Parkinson’s patients. It also provides tools and resources for families and care partners.

“Multidisciplinary care is critically important to people with Parkinson’s and is a priority of both the VA and the Parkinson’s Foundation,” Todaro said, adding that apprising veterans of available resources and benefits will help defray the disease’s overall cost.

“Veterans need to be aware of all their benefits, including those that come from having a service-related disability,” she said. “As a foundation, we are committed to addressing issues related to cost, including non-medical costs such as missed work, lost wages, forced early retirement, and family caregiver time.”