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posted: 11/12/2012 5:00 AM

Make health care for veterans a priority

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Each November, we mark a day to honor and remember the men and women who have defended our country through military service. A lesson we learned from the Vietnam era is the importance of recognizing and supporting our veterans when they return home from their service. We now have thousands of veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan in their communities. As a physician, I am particularly interested in making sure that we meet their health care needs.

A few years ago, I visited the rehabilitation unit at Walter Reed Hospital. The courage and determination of the returning "wounded warriors" who were dealing with horrendous, life-altering injuries were inspiring.

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I met a young man who grew up on a farm in Kansas and whose goal was to return home and help his family. He had been a turret gunner in an armored vehicle that was blown up in Iraq. His life was saved but at the cost of both legs and an arm. He had made tremendous progress in learning how to compensate for the loss of his limbs, even to the extent he believed that he could operate farm equipment with adaptive devices. His greatest disability, however, was the traumatic brain injury that had clouded his memory and caused outbursts of emotional rage.

We must recognize that as our veterans return to civilian life, they and their families will be seeking continued care and support for their service connected injuries -- both seen and unseen.

The Illinois State Medical Society is calling on community physicians to be aware of the special needs of our "wounded warriors." Let's honor our armed forces members on this Veterans Day by working to ensure we serve them the way they served us.

William N. Werner, MD

President

Illinois State Medical Society

Chicago

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