In this Fibro Live show, I discuss research findings linking military trauma and fibromyalgia, the current veterans’ care plan for fibromyalgia and chronic pain, and my personal experience with the brokenness of the system designed to help veterans. Here’s my take on veterans and fibromyalgia.
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Female Vets with Fibromyalgia are Younger
The reason I’m discussing veterans care is because of two recent articles published on Fibromyalgia News Today as well as my recent experiences within the Veterans Affairs (VA) system.
The first article regarding veterans and fibromyalgia discusses the findings of a recent study published in Journal of Women’s Health. The study revealed how fibromyalgia was diagnosed more often in younger, female vets than males. Here’s a myth buster for you – The study also stated that gender differences of displaying fibromyalgia manifestations are not as drastic as experts once thought.
It goes on to say that last year a study was published in regards to the high rate of fibromyalgia diagnosis in vets. And it didn’t stop at fibro – it included other issues such as headaches, connective tissue disorders as well as psychiatric conditions. Read more about the findings and articles.
Fibromyalgia Linked to Military Trauma
Another article found on Fibromyalgia News Today published findings from a study linking veterans who experience trauma to fibromyalgia along with PTSD and other disorders. It revealed that 57% of female veterans have clinical manifestations consistent with fibromyalgia. That’s over half of female veterans!
In the article, it stated that the American Psychiatric Association announced that researchers found that chronic illnesses (diabetes, fibromyalgia, chronic pain or fatigue) were more prevalent among men who have a military trauma. This was, however, based on limited medical data. The study also revealed that veterans are at a greater risk to develop chronic pain, depression, or fibromyalgia.
Veterans and Fibromyalgia
There’s existing researching regarding the link between military trauma and the higher risk of developing life altering conditions such as chronic pain and fibromyalgia. My question is then, “What are they doing about it?” And by they, I mean the VA.
What is my connection to veterans and fibromyalgia?
I am not anyone off the street talking about veterans and the care they receive. Not only do I live with fibromyalgia and chronic pain, but I am also a veteran. A veteran who was dismissed by the VA healthcare for SIX years, denied disability in regards to fibromyalgia, and continue to receive poor care. There is an effective system to get fibromyalgia patient the proper care they need because I’ve experienced the results of a successful care plan firsthand for a brief period of time. It IS possible.
My military trauma
Most people diagnosed with fibromyalgia can pinpoint the trauma that triggered it. For me, the doctor who diagnosed me with fibro pinpointed the culprit to be the weight of a weapon on my right shoulder combined with the weight of a bulletproof vest and helmet.
The weight of all these items put tremendous strain on the right side of my body. My head carried the weight of a kevlar helmet impacting my skull and spine. The bulletproof vest also added pressure on my back, and the weight of the shotgun strained my right shoulder and arm. This trifecta resulted in fibromyalgia and chronic pain for me.
I fought for years after diagnosis for disability because of my limitations of being able to work. After years of battle, I was awarded disability for various issues, but NONE of them are in regards to fibromyalgia.
What does my disability cover?
- Right leg
- Left leg
- Right arm
- Right shoulder
- Cervical strain
- Lumbar strain
My claim of fibromyalgia was denied. Why? The letter regarding the denial of fibromyalgia benefits stated “it does not establish a fact necessary to substantiate the claim and does not raise a reasonable possibility of substantiating the claim.”
What is my current care?
I’ll be straightforward about my current care: It’s bullshit. I’m seen once a year for an annual checkup. If I need to be seen in between those annual check ups, then I have to request to be seen. A request is subjective meaning it depends on the nurse and then the doctor if they deem it ‘worthy enough’ to be seen.
IF I’m approved to be seen, then I get an appointment. If I’m lucky, I’ll be seen within six weeks. IF I’M LUCKY. If not? Oh well.
For chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, I must attend a pain management class. In order to be approved for the class, I must submit to a urine analysis in order to prove I am not on any narcotics or illegal substances.
I’ve attend the class in the past, and while it did give me some good knowledge, it didn’t improve my healthcare.
In order to have an affective healthcare plan, there should be a team of medical professionals working with a patient – regardless of veteran or not, regardless of illness. The team should consist of a
- Medical doctor
- Psychiatrist and
- Physical therapist.
And what about those living far from a VA center?
I’m lucky to live close to my provider, but others are not so lucky. Someone mentioned to me about how Trump has approved for veterans to be seen at civilian providers – where is this evidence? If you know of it or where I can find it, please contact me.
Someone should not have to travel 20+ miles to be seen. When I was in West Virginia, I met veterans traveling hundreds of miles to be seen. Many of them missed their appointments because of unforeseen delays. This means waiting another six weeks for mediocre care.
What about alternative care?
Intriguing discovery of the aforementioned studies: Out of the pain patients, “the results did not reveal extensive use of narcotics in these veterans, regardless of gender.” So if veterans are not using pain medicines for their pain and symptoms, what are they using? What is available to them?
Having alternative treatments available to veterans would make a difference in many of our lives. As it stands, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and other forms of alternative treatments are currently not available to us within the VA system. This needs to change.
If you or someone you know can help make a change for veterans’ healthcare, please contact me.