IU and Ohio State University took a huge step forward last month in the fields of veteran care and medical studies. With a $2 million funding grant from the Department of Defense, the two universities will forge a partnership and establish the Indiana-Ohio Center for Traumatic Amputee Rehabilitation Research.
The name is a mouthful, but the work is extraordinary. The goal is to collect as much data as possible from Vietnam amputees, the nation’s largest surviving group with a lifetime of amputee experience.
After the war, medical professionals at the Department of Veterans Affairs weren’t entirely sure how to accommodate the large number of those with lost limbs, and consequentially their health care hasn’t been as great as it should have been. After interviewing surviving Vietnam veterans, researchers at the traumatic center hope to better understand those who fought, how they suffered afterward, and what steps can be taken in the future to ensure better medical care for war amputees.
It’ll also help reconnect with the government with veterans who have been neglected or lost between the red tape, due to new privacy restrictions placed on medical records and shabby and scatterbrained housekeeping of records at the veterans affairs and defense departments. Many veterans have suffered from a lack of care and correspondence, as one 1982 VA study found, concluding Vietnam amputees were twice as likely to be unemployed as other injured veterans, earned less money and obtained fewer college degrees.
The idea of a trauma research center has a particular relevancy today, as many of our peers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with fewer limbs than when they left. Current Vietnam veterans are in their 50s and 60s and have lived with their wounds for the length of their adult lives. Today’s veterans are still in their late teens and early 20s, and face an entirely new world of medical possibility. But after hospital care and rehabilitation programs, veterans will still need special attention, and the research conducted by IU and OSU could help assist them.
The center will be based on the IUPUI campus, and it is important for all veterans who can participate in the program to do so (visit www.VietnamWarAmputee.org for details). They served the country valiantly once, and by contributing their life experiences after the war, have the chance to serve valiantly once more and help younger people in the military.
It’s easy to say a platitude such as “We support the troops” and to slap a yellow ribbon on the back of your car. What IU and OSU are attempting to do is genuinely support the men and women who fight overseas by assisting in their medical care. The work will prove infinitely beneficial for this generation and generations to come, and when you get down to it, that’s more than a minor accomplishment.