Earlier this year, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) announced the passage of the VA MISSION Act, important legislation supporting U.S. veterans’ access to healthcare. This new bill is a major win for our veterans, redefining the VA’s Community Care Programs, and removing barriers to their access to timely and comprehensive care. It is the first bill passed by Congress that includes language about podiatry.
The Act will improve the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) ability to recruit highly qualified, board certified podiatric physicians and surgeons. This is especially important because there has been a staffing crisis, and podiatry clinics within the VA systems are some of the busiest. Services are often outsourced, increasing the cost of care. The occupation of soldiering is particularly hard on feet and ankles; veterans experience substantially more issues than civilians. And they deserve the best care the VHA has to offer.
Soldiers’ foot care has been a top priority since 1908, when studies were commissioned to study flat foot in soldiers; it has always created efficiency issues. During World War I, U.S. Surgeons worked with the U.S. Army to establish “foot camps” to educate officers and soldiers on proper foot care and footwear, as well as exercises to keep feet and ankles strong. Marching drills emphasized proper foot and body posture. These efforts were a huge success. Lessons learned about the power of strength training and proper care to keep even flat feet healthy and functioning are still applied in today’s military.
Ankle sprains are the most common injury among U.S. soldiers; females are 20 percent more likely to sustain an ankle sprain. Plantar fasciitis is also common, with age and military branch being major factors. It is much more prevalent in the over-40 age range; those in the Army and Marines are at higher risk, because they require more physical activity. Women are twice as likely to develop plantar fasciitis as their male counterparts.
In a deployed or combat environment, soldiers carry as much as 40 pounds of equipment, so they are especially susceptible to overuse injuries like Achilles tendonitis or tendon rupture, chronic heel pain, and over time, developing arthritis. The unique nature of military life is not always conducive to soldiers and officers receiving a complete cycle of care for their foot and ankle problems. NIH research shows that many of these conditions become chronic and persist after retiring from military service.
Podiatrists have served veterans since the VA was created, diagnosing and treating their foot and ankle injuries, prescribing medications, and performing surgery. The VA MISSION Act reclassifies podiatrists as podiatric surgeons, placing them in the same pay range as osteopathic and allopathic doctors. This ensures that VA health facilities will be properly staffed with qualified, board certified foot and ankle surgeons. This legislation puts veterans first and ensures they have access to the specialized care they deserve.
Anyone who has had a foot or ankle injury and received treatment from a podiatrist knows that no one knows feet and ankles better. If you’re having trouble with your feet or ankles, call Dr. O and her team of podiatric specialists at Podiatry Associates P.C., 303-805-5156. Learn more about us at footdoctorscolorado.com, and make an appointment today at our Castle Pines, Parker, Aurora, or Cherry Creek office.