Veterans Health Reference Guide – Starting With PUpdated: December 23, 2022
Our A to Z guide on veterans’ health and medical topics continues here with the letter P. Read on for more information about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, pharmacy benefits and more VA health topics that start with P.
Editor’s note: Veteran.com does not provide medical advice or diagnoses. This page contains general information related to common conditions affecting veterans. No information in this guide should replace advice from your health care provider.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
If you have experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event, you may experience symptoms related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
You don’t have to experience combat to experience PTSD. Sexual assault, car accidents, natural disasters and many other situations can cause PTSD, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
PTSD doesn’t always stem from a single event. New traumas can cause a corresponding increase in PTSD symptoms, according to a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.
If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, you may be having bad dreams, intrusive thoughts or experiencing symptoms of depression that disrupt your daily life. However, if these symptoms persist for more than a few months, you should visit your medical provider and ask to be evaluated for PTSD.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, symptoms of PTSD can include:
- Irritation or angry outbursts
- Avoidance of things that remind you of a traumatic event
- Jumpiness or feeling easily startled
- Hypervigilance or feeling preoccupied with danger or safety
- Vivid nightmares, memories or flashbacks that make you feel like you’re experiencing a traumatic event again
- Feeling numb, uninterested, isolated or cut off from other people or things you usually enjoy
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Abuse or increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Considering harm to yourself or others
- Burying yourself in work or trying to keep busy all the time
PTSD Symptoms in Women Veterans
While PTSD affects men and women in similar numbers, there are notable differences in PTSD symptoms between men and women.
Military sexual trauma (MST) can cause PTSD in service women and female veterans.
According to the VA, 23% of military women have reported experiencing sexual assault while in the military. Because of this, veteran women with PTSD are more likely than men to report sexually transmitted disease as a PTSD or MST symptom.
Women who have PTSD are also three times more likely to suffer from major depression than men who have PTSD, according to the VA. Women are also more likely than men to experience other health problems related to PTSD, including headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, anxiety, insomnia and social isolation.
Where to Get Help for PTSD
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms – especially any feelings of hopelessness, isolation or self-harm – contact the VA at 1-800-273-8255.
The VA offers a variety of treatment options to qualifying veterans who have enrolled in the VA health care system. A VA clinician can recommend any combination of counseling, medication or cognitive therapy, which can teach you new ways to approach issues and upsetting circumstances.
Veteran PTSD Statistics
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 3 million veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD since Sept. 11, 2001.
The VA estimates that 11 to 20% of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veterans experience PTSD.
Veteran PTSD Treatment Statistics
A 2008 Rand Corporation study found that more than one-fifth of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans met the criteria for PTSD, but roughly half sought treatment.
Numerous evidence-based treatment options are available to help veterans with PTSD now. Treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), prolonged exposure therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), medication or any combination of these treatments, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.
Roughly one-third of United States military service members with PTSD saw their symptoms improve after six months of cognitive behavioral therapy, according to a 2011 study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.
In studies, 61% to 82% of cognitive behavioral therapy participants and 30% to 97% of cognitive processing therapy participants achieved “loss of PTSD diagnosis,” according to a 2018 scientific review of evidence-based psychotherapy that was published in Fronieirs in Behavioral Neuroscience. Between 41% and 95% of prolonged exposure therapy participants lost their PTSD diagnosis at the end of treatment, according to the same review.
A separate scientific comparison of EMDR and prolonged exposure therapy found that treatments significantly reduced participants’ PTSD and depression symptoms, though EMDR participants experienced positive results faster and were less likely to drop out of treatment than prolonged exposure participants.
How to Qualify for VA Benefits for PTSD
Service-connected PTSD qualifies for VA benefits.
If you served in a combat zone or experienced a traumatic event in the military and have a PTSD diagnosis, consider speaking with a Veteran Service Organization or Officer before you begin your VA Claim.
VSOs like AMVETS, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) are experienced in navigating the VA claims process and can work on your behalf. You can find a list of accredited Veteran Service Organizations on the VA to find help with your claim.
Once you decide to file for benefits, fill out VA Form 21-0966, Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension, or Survivors Pension and/or DIC. You don’t need to do this if you plan to file your claim online. Beginning an online application for disability benefits notifies the VA of your intent to file.
Keep in mind: you must submit your VA claim within one year of your effective date.
Gather supporting documentation, including medical records and statements from loved ones, colleagues or supervisors who can attest to how your condition may have impacted your daily routine, work or hobbies.
Once you have this documentation, file your claim online or deliver your completed VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, by mail or in person at your closest VA regional office.
Address mail-in forms to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
The VA will then review your case and determine if you qualify for benefits. You may receive monthly payments, VA healthcare and counseling if you qualify for benefits.
The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is “an optional benefit under both Medicare and Medicaid.”
PACE is not a VA benefit, but a VA representative can help you sign up for this program if you qualify for it.
PACE includes medical and social services typically offered via adult day care providers, nursing homes, or inpatient facilities. PACE can help qualified elderly veterans receive care in their own homes.
However, PACE is only for seniors (veterans included) considered “frail enough to meet their State’s standards for nursing home care,” according to the VA. It’s also only available in states that choose to provide the service via Medicaid.
Here are the requirements to participate in PACE, according to the VA.:
- Be at least 55 years old
- Live in a PACE service area
- Be screened by a care team
- Meet the “state nursing facility level of care” requirement
- Be adaptable to life in a community setting at the time of enrollment into the PACE program
The VA prioritizes effective pain management, which doesn’t always mean opioids.
The VA aims to educate veterans and their families to “promote self-efficacy and shared decision making” for pain management. This approach includes opioid alternatives and non-pharmacological intervention, like massage or physical therapy.
When the VA prescribes opioids, it monitors pain care and patient outcomes to promote safe drug use.
The VA official site also offers numerous pain management resources, including a free online course for ongoing chronic pain management techniques.
Palliative care includes specialized attention for those suffering from serious illnesses.
VA Palliative Care services can “relieve suffering and help control symptoms in a way that respects your personal, cultural and religious beliefs and practices,” according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
These services include consultation, follow-up visits, referrals and care coordination that can help veterans access local resources.
The need for palliative care varies by patient, but anyone enrolled in VA health care services can request it if it’s medically appropriate.
Ask your VA health care provider if palliative care is appropriate for your care regimen or treatment plan.
There are differences between an ordinary seasonal flu outbreak and the phenomenon the VA calls “pandemic flu.”
The VA describes a pandemic flu outbreak as a case in which a new flu virus spreads across the globe. A new version of the flu virus can potentially infect many more people than a standard seasonal variety.
While the Covid-19 virus and its variants are unrelated to the flu, the World Health Organization has classified Covid-19 as a pandemic virus.
It’s impossible to predict when or where a new virus outbreak may occur, so the VA recommends protecting yourself against pandemic outbreaks by making your flu-season protective measures a habit.
That means you should stay up to date on protective vaccinations like the flu shot, wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and avoid direct contact with sick people.
Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic neurological disease caused by “a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain,” according to the VA.
Parkinson’s disease can present two kinds of symptoms: motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms.
Motor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease:
- Tremors while at rest
- Stiff limbs
- Slowness of movement
- Balance problems
- Walking problems
Non-Motor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease:
- Sleep disturbances
- Urinary dysfunction
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mood disorders
- Cognitive deficits
There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease yet, but there are treatment options, including medication and physical exercise regimens.
Parkinson’s Disease can be service-connected. If you’re a veteran with Parkinson’s Disease, get evaluated at the VA to see what types of care you’re eligible to receive. Be sure to mention any service-related exposure to airborne chemicals, toxins or contaminants like Agent Orange, other herbicides or burn pits.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, according to the VA.
Symptoms of this condition may include numbness, tingling or other sensations in the toes or fingers.
As the condition progresses, these symptoms may spread and intensify into burning, throbbing or shooting pain that gets worse at night.
Peripheral neuropathy can affect your coordination, cause difficulty walking and make you sensitive to touch,
The Department of Veterans Affairs presumes veterans who were exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange have this condition as a service-related medical issue. That means you don’t have to prove service connection if you started experiencing symptoms of this condition within a year of exposure to Agent Orange or some other herbicides.
If you were exposed to hazardous chemicals and experience peripheral neuropathy symptoms, contact the VA to schedule an evaluation as soon as possible.
Polytrauma is associated with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), according to the VA.
Specifically, The VA applies the term, “polytrauma” when a TBI is “associated with a significant secondary injury” like a burn, broken bone or amputation or another physical injury. It also applies when TBIs occur in combination with mental health conditions like PTSD, depression or anxiety.
Polytrauma can occur after an explosion, such as an improvised explosive device (IED) detonation or a serious crash, according to the VA.
The VA Polytrauma System of Care, also known as PSC for short, involves a network of rehabilitation programs that may include:
- Interdisciplinary evaluation
- Interdisciplinary treatment
- Creating a comprehensive health care plan
- Patient and family education
The VA began requiring TBI screenings for all veterans who served in combat operations and separated from active duty service after Sept. 11, 2001.
If you didn’t receive a mandatory screening, talk to a VA health care provider about getting screened for TBI or polytrauma – especially if you were injured in an explosive event.
According to Cancer.org, prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer affecting men in the United States, after skin cancer.
According to the VA, one in six men will develop prostate cancer.
While there is no single cause for prostate cancer, age, race, environmental factors, heredity, obesity and other factors can put you at risk for prostate cancer.
According to the Mayo Clinic, prostate cancer may not show any symptoms in its earliest stages. But over time, it can cause:
- Difficulty urinating
- Decreased pressure or force while urinating
- Blood in semen
- Pelvic discomfort
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical advice as soon as possible. You should also speak with a Veteran Service Organization officer or a VA health care provider to determine if your illness could be service-connected.
Be sure to mention if you were exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange or open burn pits during your military career.
You may receive a 100% disability rating for active prostate cancer and VA health care benefits.
Treatments for prostate cancer include limited radiation therapy that carries fewer side effects than traditional radiation treatments, according to the VA.