Nicholas Steen, Jr., was an airborne infantryman in the US Military. He sustained numerous injuries as a result of his military service and, as a direct result of those injuries, he’s now fighting a new enemy – arthritis.
“I live with this pain daily,” said Steen. “I am not the only veteran who has been diagnosed with arthritis, due in part, if not completely, to the excessive wear and tear military life can have on the body.”
Last year we researched the issue of arthritis in the US Military and found some astounding data. Not only is arthritis significantly more pervasive in the military (1 in 3) as compared to the general population (1 in 5), the cost to the US economy and individuals living with arthritis is staggering. Arthritis is affecting our troop’s readiness, veteran quality-of-life and related medical costs.
Yet, with such pervasive numbers and alarming effects, the Department of Defense (DoD) does not have a dedicated fund for arthritis research and programs.
As the Champion of Yes for all people with arthritis, we decided enough is enough. It’s time to recognize the physical toll our military members endure. It’s time to protect our protectors.
Earlier this year we researched and published an executive summary titled, A Silent Enemy, calling for the DoD to establish a $20 million dedicated fund for arthritis research and programs.
Today, as we celebrate Memorial Day and National Military Appreciation Month, recognizing the bravery and sacrifices our military members made to protect the freedoms we enjoy, we release A Silent Enemy: How Arthritis is Threatening Veterans and the US Military – an issue brief that provides detailed information, analysis and data supporting the need and value of dedicated DoD arthritis funding.
“Establishing a $20 million dedicated fund will enable researchers to build on initial findings about arthritis in military populations and work more aggressively to identify interventions, prevention strategies and treatments,” said Sandie Preiss, vice president, Advocacy & Access. “We will better meet the growing needs of active duty personnel and veterans, and, in doing so, we also will help all people living with arthritis.”
Our work has not gone unnoticed.
45 members of Congress signed a letter supporting establishment of a dedicated DoD arthritis fund and the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee added this language to the National Defense Authorization Act:
“The committee is aware that the physical demands of military training and deployment may increase the risk of osteoarthritis in service members. The committee is concerned that post-traumatic osteoarthritis may affect the readiness of our military, yet there is limited information on the scope and impact of osteoarthritis in the military. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives not later than June 30, 2017, on the overall discharge rate of military service members as a result of osteoarthritis, and recommendations on prevention and treatment to reduce the number of service members suffering from osteoarthritis.”
Our request for a dedicated DoD arthritis fund is currently being discussed within the ranks of Congress. You can help by contacting your Senators, using this form, and asking them to support a $20 million dedicated arthritis fund at the DoD.
We’ll keep you apprised. Until then, spend a few moments this Memorial Day thanking the people in your life who risked their lives protecting the freedoms we enjoy.