Dr. Ryan Tyner/Optum Health (Courtesy photo)
Veterans Day is November 11, a time to express our gratitude to the women and men who have proudly served in the military to preserve our freedoms.
For many Americans, the holiday can mean a parade down Main Street or a day of shopping Veterans Day sales, but for millions of veterans it can be another day struggling with a serious health issue tied to their service.
There were about 135,000 veterans living in New Mexico in 2019, with veterans representing 8.4 percent of the state’s adult population, according to the U.S. Census.
Nationwide, there are more than 18 million veterans, and about 200,000 leave active duty each year.
The irony of veteran health is that most men and women entering the armed services are at the peak of health and fitness; however, after leaving the service, some veterans face myriad health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), musculoskeletal injuries, mental health challenges, and illnesses as a result of environmental exposure.
Veteran health issues are complex, and they are driven by many factors, including age, race, gender, whether the veteran saw combat or not, the geographic location where the veteran served, and the nature of the conflict.
According to the U.S. Census 2019 American Community Survey, those who served in the past 20 years, post-9/11, have a 43 percent chance of having a disability connected to their time in the military.
Each veteran’s health profile is unique. By working as a team with the individual, health care providers can devise a strategy to meet the patient’s health needs. The U.S. Veterans Administration offers the following evidence-based recommendations as a foundation for improved health:
- Get high quality sleep each night and seeking help for sleep difficulties
- Keep recommended screenings and immunizations up to date
- Be active in your health care and work closely with your health care team
- Manage stress
- Cut tobacco use
- Limit alcohol use
- Take measures to protect yourself and family from harm and injury, including self-harm or domestic abuse
- Maintain a healthy weight and eat right
- Stay physically active
Veterans Day is a day to honor those who answered the call, and it can also be used as a reminder to our veterans that help is available whether their wounds are physical, or in the form of mental health challenges, or both.
If you are a veteran or a caregiver to someone who served, it’s important to take an active role in your health with your health care provider.
If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others — or you know someone having those thoughts — seek help right away. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 — or go to the closest emergency room.
To reach a trained crisis counselor, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). You may also text 988 or chat at 988.lifeline.org. The lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support. *
* The Lifeline provides live crisis center phone services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages for people who call 988.
Dr. Ryan Tyner completed his undergraduate education at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., before attending medical school at New York Medical College. He completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Texas, San Antonio. Subsequently, he served nine years of active duty in the United States Air Force, with two deployments to Afghanistan. For his military service, Dr. Tyner earned the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Oak Leaf, and the NATO Service Medal with Oak Leaf. After his military commitment, Dr. Tyner joined Optum Health in 2012.