Doctors from the University of Iowa joined Congressman Dave Loebsack today in support of legislation designed to help soldiers better deal with pain. Loebsack, a Democrat from Mt. Vernon, has successfully added the Military Pain Care Act into the new defense budget.
He says roughly 47% of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan report pain-related symptoms, with one quarter experiencing levels of pain that prevent them from returning to service or their normal lives. "Yet, the amazing thing is that the Department of Defense doesn’t have any kind of comprehensive, consistent or adequate pain care program," Loebsack says.
Loebsack says the language he put into the bill creates such a program. Loebsack says it will require the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to institute a comprehensive pain care initiative and it will require it to be addressed in the military health coverage plan.
Doctor Richard Rosenquist, the director of the University of Iowa Pain Medicine Service, joined Loebsack on a conference call with reporters to talk about the issue. "This is something that really needs to be addressed from the military," Rosenquist says. He says they see soldiers who have all sorts of injuries from the routine daily non-combat injuries, such as low back pain, to those who are injured by explosives and other events in the line of duty.
Rosenquist says studies have shown addressing problems with pain early on makes a big difference. Rosenquist says doctors set up a pain clinic at the front to treat people and found a dramatic difference. He says of those who were not treated at the front, just 2% went back to active duty, while those treated at the front had a 94.7% return to service rate. Rosenquist says untreated pain leads to mental health concerns.
Rosenquist says when people have pain 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, it takes a huge amount of mental effort just to begin to try to compartmentalize that pain, and people then have little energy left for anything else. He says people have trouble sleeping and doing everyday things. Loebsack says his legislation would cover all active-duty military personnel. A companion bill in the U.S. Senate would address the same issue for military veterans.