The Arthritis Foundation Partners With U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to Expand Access to Support, Resources
Partnership has potential to benefit over one-third of the U.S. veteran population
For Immediate Release
(ATLANTA, August 3, 2021) — The Arthritis Foundation today announced its formal partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to expand the support and resources for the more than 1 in 3 veterans with doctor-diagnosed arthritis. The partnership comes ahead of the commemoration of National Purple Heart Day on August 7, honoring service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives on the front lines or suffered a life-altering injury due to combat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, arthritis is more prevalent in veterans than non-veterans overall. In particular, the effects of rigorous military training and deployment put veterans at risk for developing osteoarthritis, in addition to other long-term impacts to their physical and mental health.
“VA supports the health and wellbeing of Veterans by providing world-class service that is patient-focused. Living with chronic conditions can be physically and emotionally challenging; partnerships such as this one with the Arthritis Foundation expand on the programs and services VA offers,” said VHA Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP) Nurse Executive Dr. Tracy. L. Weistreich.
The new partnership will expand veterans’ and retired military access to the Arthritis Foundation’s Live Yes! Connect Groups, which provide them with a support system of others with a shared experience. This past year, the Arthritis Foundation formed a new Live Yes! Connect Group for veterans, which holds its next meeting virtually on August 17. As more volunteers are trained to facilitate veteran-specific Live Yes! Connect Groups, the Foundation anticipates these groups will have the opportunity to meet in-person and virtually across the country.
For Brian W. Sharp, a medically retired Staff Sergeant who served on active duty with the U.S. Air Force for more than 13 years, connecting with the arthritis community has helped him get through the physical and emotional pain caused by his ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which he’s been battling since age 24.
“The years following my retirement from the U.S Air Force, my condition worsened due to my sedentary lifestyle and depression – which, in turn, made my arthritis pain even worse,” said Sharp, who was also diagnosed with relapsing polychondritis (RPC), a rare form of arthritis, in 2017. “However, finding support through the Arthritis Foundation inspired me to get back on my feet and start living again.”
Over the past 11 years, Sharp developed a passion for running by completing more than 120 races, including four marathons, and traversing over 8,800 miles. In spite of permanent damage to his ears and major joints in his body, he has found ways to manage his pain and inflammation while living an active lifestyle.
In addition to connecting veterans with support and resources, another goal of the partnership is to glean more information from veterans about their personal arthritis journey through the Arthritis Foundation’s ongoing Live Yes! INSIGHTS study.
“By listening to patients’ experiences, we can make data-informed decisions in creating new resources, programs and services to better serve the veteran community,” said Steven Taylor, Executive Vice President, Mission & Strategic Initiatives for the Arthritis Foundation. “Our veterans have taken care of us, and now it’s time to take care of them. We’re so thrilled to partner with the VA so we can reach even more veterans and help connect them with tools and resources to improve their quality of life.”
Veterans living with arthritis can join a Live Yes! Connect Group, access health and wellness resources, download the Vim pain management app and find other valuable content and resources for free at arthritis.org.
About the Arthritis Foundation:
The Arthritis Foundation is fighting for all people who live with arthritis. As a Champion of Yes, it's the Arthritis Foundation's mission to turn the obstacles arthritis causes into opportunities. The Arthritis Foundation champions life-changing solutions and medical advancements, and it also provides ways for people to connect, break down barriers in health care and join the fight for a cure — uniting hearts, minds and resources to change the future of arthritis. To join the fight to conquer arthritis, visit arthritis.org.