February 22nd, 2007 03:13 EST
VA Showcases Amputee Rehabilitation Research
WASHINGTON – Expertise developed by the Department of Veterans (VA) for treating amputees and developing prosthetics during the past century will enable the Department to take a leading role in meeting the needs of veterans well into the 21st century, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson said today in Miami.
“VA has always been on the leading edge of rehabilitation for physical trauma and complications of disease -- directly for the betterment of our veterans but ultimately benefiting all Americans,” said Nicholson. “Today’s VA programs are continuing our progress in helping both our latest generation of combat veterans and those injured decades ago.”
Nicholson’s comments came as he visited VA’s new Functional Outcomes Research and Evaluation Center in Miami, which has an eight-week program to assess the physical skills and movements of amputee patients. The Center hosted a symposium on the care of veterans who have lost limbs.
The new facility, part of the Miami VA Medical Center, has built a research and rehabilitation laboratory in partnership with its physical and occupation therapy department. Nationally, VA has developed not only a wide array of rehabilitation research and treatment programs, but nearly 60 prosthetic laboratories providing customized devices and artificial limbs prescribed by VA clinicians.
The number of veterans using VA for prosthetics, sensory aids and related services has increased more than 70 percent since 2000. As demand has increased, so has VA’s budget for these services – from $532 million in 2000 to $1.3 billion in 2006. The President’s budget for 2008 requests $1.4 billion. Prosthetics research totals another $411 million in 2008.
Ensuring that new devices and technology work in the real world is a prime goal of VA’s rehabilitation research, according to Robert Gailey, a physical therapist of the Miami VA Healthcare System, who designed the local project. Gailey consults with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and helped design the amputee rehabilitation program there for service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
VA’s program comprises not only technology and teaching amputees to walk or use artificial arms and hands but long-term care to improve functioning and make adjustments months or years after amputation.