In the United States, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease.
Although the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, research suggests that its cause may be related to genetic and environmental factors. For some veterans with Parkinson’s disease, the disease may be associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service.
To improve the lives of veterans with Parkinson’s disease, the Parkinson Foundation has a partnership with the VA. Below, we answer some of the top questions Veterans and their families have asked about Parkinson’s disease.
1. What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that occurs when the brain cells that make dopamine start to die. The rate of progression and symptoms are different for everyone.
2. What are the early signs of Parkinson’s disease?
While a tremor is the most recognizable symptom, the first signs may include small handwriting (a change in handwriting, such as cramped small letters), loss of smell, trouble sleeping, and difficulty moving or walking (stiffness in the body or arms).
3. How is Parkinson’s disease diagnosed?
There is no specific test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. A diagnosis is often based on an office doctor’s examination and neurological tests, medical history, symptoms, medical problems, current and past medications, and response to medications.
4. Where can a Veteran receive treatment for Parkinson’s disease?
Many veterans with Parkinson’s disease have access to specialist medical care and financial assistance through VA, which treats veterans with Parkinson’s disease through centers of research, education and clinical care on Parkinson’s disease (PADRECC) and consortium centers. These centers use advanced clinical care and are staffed with specialists. Learn more about www.parkinsons.va.gov and get help applying to www.VA.gov/health-care.
The Parkinson Foundation’s centers of excellence also provide care to all people with Parkinson’s disease. These are medical centers across the country with a specialized team who are up to date on the latest PD treatments and research.
5. Are veterans with Parkinson’s disease eligible for service-related compensation?
Veterans with PD who have been exposed to certain herbicides – including Agent Orange – while on duty may be eligible for disability compensation and health care. Visit www.VA.gov/disability for the information you need to apply.
6. Can Veterans participate in Parkinson’s disease research?
Often, veterans with Parkinson’s disease are eligible to participate in clinical trials and other research opportunities. Talk to your doctor before signing up for a study. Veterans and anyone with a confirmed diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease are eligible to enroll in the Parkinson Foundation’s study “PD GENEration: Mapping the Future of Parkinson’s Disease”, which offers genetic testing and free genetic counseling. costs. Subscribe to Parkinson.org/PDGÉration.
7. What resources are available for veterans with Parkinson’s disease?
- 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411): Toll-free number that connects Veterans, their families and their caregivers with information about VA benefits and services. Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Parkinson.org/Veterans: Information designed for veterans with Parkinson’s disease, supplemented by the FAQ guide and additional resources.
8. Where can I find resources for someone newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease?
The Parkinson’s Foundation has resources and materials designed specifically for someone newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Order the newly diagnosed kit, visit parkinson.org/NewlyDiagnosed or call the Parkinson Foundation helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636).
9. What resources are available for care partners of veterans with Parkinson’s disease?
- VA Caregiver Support Program: Offers many services designed specifically to support veteran caregivers, including resources, education, support, and more. Visit caregiver.va.gov or call the National Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.
- Parkinson.org/Caregivers: A must-have resource for care partners going through all stages of Parkinson’s disease, with articles and tools.
Contact the Parkinson Foundation Hotline for answers to your questions about Parkinson’s disease at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).