Arthritis is no stranger to the men and women who serve our country. In fact, American veterans and service members are disproportionately affected by the disease, which impacts one in three U.S. military personnel compared to one in five civilians.
On Feb. 10, in a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill, representatives of the Arthritis Foundation, along with the American College of Rheumatology, veterans organizations and service members, put a spotlight on arthritis in the military, calling the disease a “silent enemy” that threatens our nation through the disability it causes and the fortune it costs U.S. taxpayers in health care expenses.
The Arthritis Foundation has taken the latest research data and turned it into a compelling case for public policy change. We and our partners are calling on Congress to dedicate $20 million to Department of Defense research that focuses on arthritis and ways to mitigate its effects. Arthritis research that helps our military and veteran populations will ultimately benefit everyone with arthritis.
Studies show that arthritis is among the most chronic conditions veterans and service members face today. Osteoarthritis (OA), in particular, is the most frequent reason active duty personnel are deemed unfit for duty, including many young adults. Research can help identify ways to reduce joint injury during military training and service, which can lessen the impact of arthritis, and possibly prevent it altogether.
Arthritis negatively affects the ability of active duty service members to perform their duties, and it limits the quality of life for veterans. It’s also responsible for rising health care costs, which can be profound when considering the amount of lifetime care needed. Add disability compensation, and the costs increase significantly.
That’s why we need to make arthritis a top national health priority. A guaranteed arthritis research program will go a long way toward solving arthritis and making our military stronger, while also benefiting the general population. Please urge your elected officials to support dedicated arthritis research funding in the Department of Defense. You can follow along during the briefing from noon-1:30 p.m. EST tomorrow by following the hashtag #SilentEnemy on Twitter.