Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s in the U.S. One million Americans live with Parkinson’s today – and of those, approximately 110,000 Veterans with PD receive Parkinson’s treatment through VA.
While the exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, research suggests that its cause can be linked to genetic and environmental factors. For some Veterans living with Parkinson’s, the disease can be associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service.
To make life better for Veterans with Parkinson’s, the Parkinson’s Foundation has a partnership with the VA. Below we answer the top questions asked by Veterans and their family members about Parkinson’s.
1. What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, neurological disorder that occurs when the cells in the brain 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?
While a tremor is the most recognizable symptom, early signs can include small handwriting (a change in handwriting, such as small, cramped letters), loss of smell, trouble sleeping, and trouble moving or walking (a stiffness in your body or arms).
3. How is Parkinson’s diagnosed?
There is no specific test to diagnose Parkinson’s. A diagnosis is often based on an in-office medical examination and neurological tests, medical history, symptom history, medical problems, current and past medications, and response to medication.
4. Where can a Veteran receive Parkinson’s treatment?
Many Veterans with Parkinson’s have access to specialized medical care and financial assistance through VA, which treats Veterans with Parkinson’s through the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education & Clinical Centers (PADRECCs) and Consortium Centers. These centers utilize state-of-the-art clinical care and are staffed by specialists. Learn more at www.parkinsons.va.gov and get help with applying at www.VA.gov/health-care.
Parkinson’s Foundation Centers of Excellence also provide care to all people with Parkinson’s. These are medical centers throughout the nation with a specialized team who are up to date on the latest PD treatments and research.
5. Are Veterans with Parkinson’s eligible for service-connected compensation?
Veterans with PD who were exposed to certain herbicides – including Agent Orange – during their service 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 research?
Often, Veterans with Parkinson’s are eligible to participate in clinical trials and other research opportunities. Talk to your doctor before enrolling in a study. Veterans, and anyone with a confirmed Parkinson’s diagnosis, are eligible to enroll in the Parkinson’s Foundation “PD GENEration: Mapping the Future of Parkinson’s Disease” study, which offers genetic testing and genetic counseling at no cost. Enroll at Parkinson.org/PDGENEration.
7. What resources are available to Veterans with Parkinson’s?
- 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411): toll-free number that connects Veterans, their families and caregivers to information on VA benefits and services. Available 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year.
- Parkinson.org/Veterans: information designed for veterans with Parkinson’s, complete with the FAQ Guide and additional resources.
8. Where can I find resources for someone newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s?
The Parkinson’s Foundation has resources and materials designed specifically for a person newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Order the Newly Diagnosed Kit, visit parkinson.org/NewlyDiagnosed or call the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636).
9. What resources are available to care partners of Veterans with Parkinson’s?
- VA Caregiver Support Program: offers many services designed specifically to support caregivers of Veterans, 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: go-to resource for care partners navigating all stages of Parkinson’s, complete with articles and tools.
Contact the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline for answers to your Parkinson’s questions at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).