Jumping out of an airplane can be stressful to the body. Add more than 50 pounds of gear and the effect on your joints can be devastating.
This is the case for Nicholas Steen. As an airborne infantryman in the Army, he regularly jumped out of planes, parachuting to earth while carrying his normal military gear along with a 30-pound gun and 600 rounds of ammunition.
For Steen, jumping was the easy part. The landing? Well, that’s a different story.
As a result of his service in the U.S. Military and the related stress and injuries to his body, Steen, like many other veterans, developed arthritis and will now battle increasing pain and disability for the rest of his life.
The prevalence of arthritis in U.S. Military active duty personnel and veterans is alarming. One in three veterans has arthritis (34.7 percent), compared to one in five civilians, and the occurrence of osteoarthritis (OA) is 26 percent higher in the under-20 age group as compared to the same age group in the general population. OA is the most frequent reason active duty personnel are deemed unfit for duty.
This growing arthritis burden negatively affects the ability of active duty service members to perform their duties, significantly increases related healthcare costs and adversely affects the quality of life for veterans – the same people who bravely risked their lives defending our freedom.
Now it’s time for us to defend them.
Today, the Arthritis Foundation, along with the American College of Rheumatology and American Osteopathic Association, took the issue to Congress. In a room packed with legislative staff, military personnel and veterans, physicians and reporters, Congress was asked to address this growing burden by establishing a $20 million dedicated arthritis program within the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medial Research Program.
“Our action statement is to support appropriate language intended for exclusive research funding for veterans and service members who suffer from arthritis,” said Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), who made remarks at the briefing and is co-chair of the Congressional Arthritis Caucus. “Too many issues in Washington get swept under the rug. Arthritis will not.”
Colin Edgerton, MD, also spoke at the briefing and remarked, “Arthritis research and discoveries at the Department of Defense could benefit everyone who has arthritis, not just military service members.” Dr. Edgerton is a rheumatologist, U.S. combat veteran and former Army physician.
Achieving dedicated DoD funding for arthritis research is not without reason or reach. With your help, we can make it happen. Join the fight to defend our service members and veterans and defeat arthritis. Read “A Silent Enemy: How Arthritis is Threatening the U.S. Military” or go to www.Arthritis.org/Advocacy to learn how you can become an Arthritis Foundation Advocate.