Staying Healthy

Flu season is here, and if you are a veteran considering getting a flu shot, now may be a good time to get it done. The VA is teaming up with Walgreens to offer free flu shots to veterans. You will need to present your Veteran’s Identification Card to receive the vaccine.

As a reminder of how the flu can affect you, here are some of the signs:

  • Possible fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Possible vomiting and diarrhea
  • While having the flu is bad enough, it can also lead to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus infection. If you are older (over 65 years, or have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), you may be at greater risk of developing complications. Signs that your flu is getting worse rather than better include:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • This year, do your best to stay health; get your flu shot and take care of yourself…after all, you’re worth it!


Gulf War Veterans experiencing unexplained chronic medical symptoms including fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, or memory problems, may be eligible for VA disability compensation. If you have had any of these symptoms for six months or more, and they appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operation and are designated to be at least 10% disabling, they are considered presumptive conditions. As such, you will not have to prove a connection between your military service and the illness in order to receive VA disability compensation.

Presumptive conditions include:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome — a condition of long-term, severe fatigue not caused by other conditions.
  • Fibromyalgia – severe muscle pain which may include insomnia, headache, and memory problems.
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders – identified by chronic or recurrent symptoms related to any part of the gastrointestinal tract. These may include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.
  • Undiagnosed illnesses, including the following symptoms: abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances.

As a Gulf War Veteran with any of these symptoms, you may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits including a Gulf War Registry health exam, and Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, health care, and disability compensation for diseases related to military service. Dependents and survivors may also be eligible for benefits.

Presumptive Conditions for Camp Lejeune Veterans

Camp Lejeune is the Marine Corps Base Camp in Jacksonville, North Carolina. From 1957 through 1987, people living at Camp Lejeune were exposed to contaminated drinking water.  The contaminants involved were industrial solvents.

The VA is now providing free health care for the following conditions to Veterans who served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987.

Qualifying health conditions include:

·         Esophageal cancer

·         Breast cancer

·         Kidney cancer

·         Multiple myeloma

·         Renal toxicity

·         Female infertility

·         Scleroderma

·         Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

·         Lung cancer

·         Bladder cancer

·         Leukemia

·         Myelodysplastic syndromes

·         Hepatic steatosis

·         Miscarriage

·         Neurobehavioral effects

If you believe other health conditions you are suffering from are directly related to the contaminated water you were exposed to at Camp Lejeune, contact your primary health care provider to file a claim with the VA. You will need to have served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune, during the time period of January 1, 1957 through December 31, 1987.  Family members of Veterans who also resided at Camp Lejeune during the qualifying period are also eligible for reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical expenses involving the covered health conditions.


Off Balance

In the United States, there are about eight million adults who suffer with balance problems. Nearly one third of older adults have difficulty with their balance or with walking.  This can be due to inner ear infection, nerve problems in the legs or feet, Parkinson’s disease, or other conditions.

One of those other causes is diabetes.  When it is uncontrolled, diabetes can affect your balance, often from a loss of sensation due to nerve damage in the bottoms of the feet.

Migraine headaches are another reason balance may be compromised. If you’ve ever had migraines, you probably know they are often accompanied by motion sickness, vision issues, and balance problems.  Dizziness occurs when you are unable to correctly process what you’re seeing.

If you are having problems with your balance, you may be sent for a hearing test. While most of us are aware that an inner ear infection can affect balance, what isn’t as commonly known is that the nerve that sends balance signals also sends hearing signals.  Thus, if you have a problem that affects your balance, it can also affect your hearing.

Although we often don’t usually consider poor balance that big a deal, it can indicate other things going on within us, and if we fall, it can lead to serious injury or long-term difficulties.

Whatever the underlying cause of your loss of balance is, don’t brush it off and ignore it. Balance problems can indicate other things going on with your health.  Fortunately, most of them can be successfully treated.


It seems like we all watch our cholesterol these days, but we may not really understand the importance of doing so. If you have high cholesterol, you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.  It’s that simple.

You may be at risk for having high cholesterol if any of the following risk factors fit your profile:

  • Are you a man 45 years old or older or a woman 55 years old or older?
  • Does your family have a history of heart problems? This includes heart attack, coronary heart disease, or atherosclerosis.
  • Do you have high blood pressure? Are you on blood pressure medication?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you have diabetes?

If you answer “yes” to one or more of the factors listed, then it may be time for you to make some changes in your lifestyle to lower your cholesterol level.

Some of those changes may include:

  • Eating less fat, salt, and more fiber
  • Comparing labels on the food products you buy and choosing those that are lower in fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories
  • Cooking with less fat
  • Learning correct serving sizes for determining food portions
  • Increase your physical activity to 30 minutes most days to strengthen your heart

High cholesterol can be controlled.  Now is the time to start creating your plan toward a healthier you!