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DoD, VA Address Best Care Practices for Veterans With Limb Loss

In the morning, the attendees listened to various presentations that focused on new information and techniques. The training was more hands-on in the afternoon, allowing the attendees to interact with one another and practice the things they were being taught. Photograph by Marlon J. Martin. Courtesy of the U.S. Army.

About 100 medical experts from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) attended the 2015 Federal Advanced Amputation Skills Training (FAAST) Symposium, May 19-21, to share information and collaborate on how to best care for service members and veterans who have sustained limb loss or other traumatic injury. Attendees of the joint training symposium included DoD and VA physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, prosthetists, and other clinical staff who traveled from across the country to participate in the training hosted at San Antonio Military Medical Center and the Center For the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.

Now in its second year, the FAAST Symposium provides a platform for healthcare professionals to not only share their best practices in extremity trauma care, but also to learn more about amputation care and to keep up with the latest technology and approaches to limb-loss rehabilitation.

“The symposium highlighted the rehabilitative care provided in DoD and VA facilities is truly state-of-the-art. I also believe that we, at the Center for the Intrepid, were able to demonstrate to the VA participants that the sports medicine model we use for rehabilitation can be used in the populations most commonly seen in their clinics,” said Stuart Campbell, program manager for the symposium.

According to recent reports, more than 1,600 service members have lost limbs through combat in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. Of this number, more than 300 have lost multiple limbs. There are also over 40,000 veterans with limb loss who receive care for their amputations through the VA healthcare system. To minimize inconsistencies in practices that have been identified between these two federal healthcare systems, particularly in rehabilitation medicine, healthcare professionals have teamed up to provide an annual comprehensive update on rehabilitation principles, emerging issues, and research in the area of extremity trauma and amputation care. With new amputees receiving state-of-the-art prostheses and transitioning to the civilian sector for lifelong follow-up medical care with the VA, it is essential that DoD clinicians share lessons learned with their VA counterparts. However, the ultimate goal is to learn, establish, and implement the best practices from both systems and apply them to provide the highest level of care to all service members, veterans, and beneficiaries.

This story was adapted from an original story by Marlon J. Martin, U.S. Army Medical Command.