big city
PUBLISHED:
December 7, 2023
Updated:
December 7, 2023
|
by
Eddie Zepeda

Understanding Prosthetics for Veterans

Prosthetics

Prosthetic devices have become a key resource in improving the lives of veteran amputees. With over a quarter of veterans in the United States living with disabilities, the demand for prosthetics within the VA healthcare system has soared.

Through the VA's Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services, veterans have access to a range of medical rehabilitation, prosthetic, and sensory aids services. Recent changes in veterans' benefits have also allowed for more flexibility in selecting prosthetic providers.

Veterans covered through the VA can now choose private clinics for their prosthetic needs, working in coordination with the prosthetic department at the VA. This collaborative effort speeds up the fitting and delivery process to provide timely and high-quality care to VA patients.

At PrimeCare, we’re committed to delivering exceptional prosthetic care in alignment with the VA's mission. Our team ensures veterans in Albuquerque, NM, and neighboring areas, receive the highest prosthetic services.

Statistics on Amputee Veterans

Statistics on Amputee Veterans

Integrating data from the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense unveils a significant statistic: traumatic amputations account for less than half of 1% of the veteran population. However, comprehensive research also highlights the challenges faced by amputee veterans, as they often exhibit a higher prevalence of comorbidities.

Remarkably, after transitioning from military service, over 80% of amputees also receive diagnoses in key categories, including mental disorders, diseases of the nervous system and sense organs, and diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, in addition to their original injury (source: VA IG Healthcare Inspection: Prosthetic Limb Care in VA Facilities).

What Are Veteran Prosthetics and Equipment?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plays a key role in providing medically prescribed prosthetic and sensory aids to eligible veterans. These essential aids encompass a wide range of devices, including:

  1. Artificial limbs (for upper and lower limb amputees)
  2. Hearing aids
  3. Communication aids
  4. Blood pressure monitors
  5. Eyeglasses
  6. Orthopedic braces, therapeutic shoes, and socks
  7. Adapted computer equipment
  8. Adaptive recreation equipment
  9. Adaptive sports equipment
  10. Wheelchairs
  11. CPAP machines and supplies
  12. Pillboxes and cutters
  13. Shower chairs and equipment
  14. Stair Lifts
  15. Walkers
  16. Crutches
  17. Canes
  18. Other durable home medical equipment and supplies.

The selection of a prosthetic appliance is guided by various factors such as the veteran's overall health, activity level, and personal preferences. With a vast array of options available, ranging from cosmetic models to externally powered, myoelectric prostheses, veterans can find specialized devices to accommodate virtually any sport or activity.

The VA is committed to providing comprehensive and long-term support to veterans by replacing and repairing prosthetics free of charge for the rest of their lives.

Considerations for Women Veterans with Amputations

Considerations for Women Veterans with Amputations

When fitting prosthetic devices for women veterans with amputations, it's essential to recognize the significant physiological differences between men and women. In addition to addressing cosmetic preferences, such as ensuring prosthetic feet match in size to their intact counterparts, women may require more tailored customization to accommodate their typically smaller frames.

Furthermore, a woman veteran with lower-limb amputation who becomes pregnant faces unique challenges. Pregnancy introduces added strain on prosthetic devices due to maternal weight gain and natural changes in bone structure during this transformative process.

If you’re a woman veteran receiving VA care for an amputation and are expecting a child, reaching out to a VA maternity care coordinator is crucial. They can help ensure you receive comprehensive care that addresses all your needs, including those related to prosthetic and rehabilitative items.

Who Qualifies for Veterans Prosthetic Appliances?

To qualify for Veterans Prosthetics, you typically need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Discharge Status: Your discharge status must not be dishonorable unless the VA Regional Office grants an exception.
  2. Service-Connected Disability: You must have a disability, injury, or illness related to your military service that requires the use of prosthetic aids.
  3. VA Health Care Enrollment: Prosthetics are a part of the Medical Benefits Package offered by the VA. To access these benefits, you must be enrolled in the VA healthcare system or meet the eligibility criteria specified by the law.

Both veterans from the direct and active components are eligible for the Medical Benefits Package within the VA, which includes prosthetic appliances.

Veterans Affairs Amputation Care System

To improve veterans' access to advanced rehabilitation techniques and state-of-the-art prosthetic technology, the VA has established the VA Amputation System of Care. It has four key components designed to connect veterans with the expertise they need. These components include:

  1. Seven Regional Amputation Centers (RACs): These centers house the highest level of specialized expertise in clinical care and technology, providing comprehensive rehabilitative care for veterans facing the most complex amputation cases.
  2. Eighteen Polytrauma/Amputation Network Sites (PANs): PANs offer both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services, as well as access to prosthetic labs, conveniently located closer to veterans' residences.
  3. Amputation Care Teams (ACTs): ACTs operate within dedicated Amputation Clinics and consist of interdisciplinary teams. While they may not provide the full spectrum of services available at RACs or PANs, they offer specialized care and support.
  4. Amputation Points of Contact (APOCs): These are located at smaller VA medical facilities and serve as the initial point of contact for consultation and assessment for amputee patients. While APOCs may not have the full range of resources or expertise found at larger facilities, they play a vital role in connecting veterans with the care they need.

Unique Assistance Offered to Veterans with Amputations

  1. Clothing Allowance: Veterans with service-connected disabilities who use prosthetic or orthopedic devices can apply for an annual VA clothing allowance. All clothing allowance application forms should be submitted to the Sensory Aids Service within the Prosthetic and Orthotic Devices Department at the VA medical center nearest to you by August 1st of each calendar year.
  2. Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA): Veterans with amputations can seek HISA grants to make necessary modifications to their homes. These modifications may include building ramps, adapting bathroom and shower facilities, adjusting doorways, and altering countertop or sink heights to meet both lifestyle and medical needs. A lifetime HISA benefit of up to $6,800 is available for veterans with service-connected conditions and for veterans with non-service-connected conditions rated at 50% or more. Veterans with non-service-connected conditions may receive a lifetime benefit of up to $2,000.
  3. Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE): Veterans with amputations can apply for a VA AAE grant to obtain essential adaptive equipment for their vehicles. This equipment may include platform wheelchair lifts, UVL (under-vehicle lifts), power door openers, lowered floors or raised roofs, raised doors, hand controls, left-foot gas pedals, reduced- and zero-effort steering and braking, and digital driving systems.
  4. The VA also offers training through the VA Driver’s Rehabilitation Program to help veterans safely operate their vehicles. The program provides reimbursement for standard equipment, including power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seats, and other necessary equipment to ensure safe driving.
  5. Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant: SAH grants assist disabled veterans in constructing specially adapted homes, remodeling existing homes, or paying down mortgages on specially adapted homes acquired without VA grant assistance.
  6. Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant: SHA grants help eligible disabled veterans adapt or purchase homes to accommodate their disabilities. These grants can be used to modify existing homes owned by the veteran or a family member or to purchase homes that are already adapted. To qualify for the grant, veterans must live in an adapted home.
  7. Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) Grant: TRA grants are available to SAH- or SHA-eligible veterans or service members temporarily residing in homes owned by family members. These grants do not deduct from the total grant funds available to a veteran but count as one of the three usages allotted to them.

To apply for Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant (VA Form 26-4555), please contact a Specially Adapted Housing staff member by phone at 877-827-3702.

Adaptive Sports and VA Rehabilitation Programs

Adaptive Sports and VA Rehabilitation Programs
  1. National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic: Recognized globally for its rehabilitation impact, this annual clinic, presented by DAV and the VA, offers intensive training and rehabilitation to nearly 400 profoundly disabled veterans each year. Veterans with amputations, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, visual impairments, and other severe disabilities are encouraged to challenge their perceived limitations through adaptive activities like skiing, sled hockey, scuba diving, rock wall climbing, and educational programs.
  2. National Disabled Veterans Golf Clinic: Another event presented by DAV and the VA, this weeklong adaptive golf program is designed to foster rehabilitation among veterans with visual impairments and life-changing disabilities. Participants engage in adaptive golf and other recreational sports activities to promote their well-being.
  3. National Veterans Wheelchair Games: As the world's largest annual wheelchair sports event exclusively for military veterans, this event welcomes all U.S. veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, multiple sclerosis, or other central neurological conditions who require a wheelchair for athletic competition. Veterans from various eras, including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the post-9/11 era, come together in a celebration of courage and camaraderie. This event, co-sponsored by the VA and Paralyzed Veterans of America, emphasizes the significance of adaptive sports in VA rehabilitation.
  4. National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic: This program highlights the value of rehabilitation through various adventure sports and recreational activities, including sailing, surfing, kayaking, and cycling. It offers veterans opportunities to participate in adaptive sports and outdoor adventures as part of their VA rehabilitation journey.

How Do I Get in Touch with Someone?

You have two convenient options:

  1. Reach out to the prosthetic representative at your nearest VA medical center or outpatient clinic.
  2. Alternatively, don't hesitate to contact PrimeCare, where our team of experienced prosthetists is dedicated to assisting you as a VA patient. We're here to help you understand your options and recommend the prosthetic that best suits your unique needs. With our wealth of knowledge and expertise in prosthetics and orthotics care for veterans, rest assured that you'll receive exceptional, personalized care that's hard to find elsewhere.

Take the first step towards enhanced mobility and well-being today by requesting an appointment with PrimeCare.

Request an Evaluation

If you have questions or you are ready to talk about prosthetic options, feel free to schedule a consultation at our clinic.

A grandfather with a prosthesis walks with his grandchildren.