In an alarming new statistic out by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly one in four veterans receiving care from VA Centers around the country have diabetes.
And when you play a game of numbers, more than 1.7 million veterans live in Texas. And for a city like San Antonio it becomes a community wide problem. Especially when you take into account there are eight military installations in town, and it’s no question why the city has coined the phrase, ‘Military City U.S.A.’
Dr. Mark Wallace, a VA endocrinologist in San Antonio says, says he’s not surprised by the statistics.
“A lot of the time, when veterans come back or are close to retiring, they end up leaving the military with a lot of muscular and skeletal injuries,” he said. “It causes issues where they’re not able to be functional or highly functional and not be as physical active and not able to work out as much.”
With nearly 25 percent of veterans having diabetes, that means either veterans themselves have it, or they know someone who does.
“I’ve seen friends and guys survive war, and then come back home and forget about their health and lose limbs or even their life,” said retired Air Force veteran Patrick Tucker. “We're moving all the time; we don't have the best food to eat. A lot of the time we don't really know we have diabetes until we get our annual check up.”
A possible reason for such high numbers is because of the VAs intense health screening process, Dr. Wallace said.
“The numbers are both a good and bad thing,” he said. “They’re higher than we’d like but people are getting the care they need. But at this point, the epidemic is so large that we’re trying to catch up.”
While Dr. Wallace says the fundamental problem with veterans who have diabetes is a lack of education about the diseases. But if you ask veterans, many of them will say it’s a generational problem.
“You do have a choice about how much you consumer, but a lot of time, generations like mine were taught to ‘clean your plate, clean your plate, clean your plate',” said retired Army veteran Marvin Arnold. “You have that brain telling you ‘ok I've had enough to stop’, but you don’t.”
Regardless of the debate on whether it’s an educational based problem or a generational one, both sides agree, a veteran’s physical capabilities change and when paired that with poor diet, it leads to a slippery slope.
“If you look at the economically disenfranchised a lot of it is poor diet because that’s the only thing they can afford,” Arnold said. “When you're in [the military] you're being physically active because you're younger, and as soon as you're out you just get back in that slum. ‘I don't need to exercise; I'm getting to old for this’.”