Veterans: An annual physical could save your life

Come prepared with questions for your doctor


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When was your last annual physical exam? Is that important?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – especially true when it comes to health care.

VA is dedicated to helping Veterans maintain their health and screen for various health risks through proper preventative care.

You can use VA resources like My HealtheVet to access your health records. Doing so helps you prepare for an exam. You also can message your care team securely with any questions you have after an appointment.

In addition, you can search the helpful information available at the VA Health Library to understand dozens of health conditions.

An annual exam could be a lifesaver.

Elements of the exam

An average physical can include:

  • A comprehensive physical exam catered to a patient’s age, gender and specific risk factors
  • A check for heart health
  • A lungs examination
  • Skin screening
  • A lab test, including blood count and cholesterol
  • BMI (body mass index) testing
  • Screenings for age- and gender-appropriate cancer risk factors

One of the most important aspects of preventative care is the partnership between a physician and patient.

You can help by being informed about your family medical history and researching your health conditions or risk factors.

Many patients are unaware that in addition to discussing physical issues, an annual physical exam also offers the opportunity to talk about any new or ongoing struggles with depression, PTSD, homelessness, drug dependency or an entire range of health-related issues.

The VA system prompts clinicians to ask those important questions. On some occasions, medical staff refers Veterans who screen positive to mental health the same day for further evaluation and management.

This is especially important as more and more research points to the association between emotional stress and physical illness.

Author

Hans Petersen

Hans Petersen is senior writer-editor for Digital Media, VHA Office of Communications. An Air Force Veteran, Hans also served two years in the Peace Corps and worked for 20 years in broadcasting before joining VA.

Comments

  1. Maria T Basco    

    What’s up with the annual physical exam? We got used to having automatic annual exams during our active duty. Since, I retired, I only see my PCM for medicine refills. We have to make/call for our own appointment. Do VA really offer Annual exam for retirees? I just want to know.

  2. Steve Pegram    

    I just finished reading the article, “Veterans: An annual physical could save your life”, in which was the statement, “VA is dedicated to helping Veterans maintain their health and screen for various health risks through proper preventative care”. I almost laughed except I was so shocked that I couldn’t do anything more than shake my head in dismay.

    I have been a patient at the Atlanta VAMC for 20 years now and have received maybe four or five actual annual physicals during that time, and I cannot even remember the last time I actually received a physical. It’s been that long ago! Every year I am scheduled for what I can only suppose is meant to be a physical, but each year I walk out wondering why the VA healthcare system doesn’t give physicals. Each time the doctors just sit there looking at my chart, ask me if I need any refills on my meds and then send me on my way. No examination at all. So imagine my surprise when I see this article being published as if the VA actually gives physicals to Veterans.

    Of course, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. About three or four years ago my regular primary care doctor left the VA to go into private practice so I was assigned a new Primary Care doctor. When I went to him, not only was it hard to understand what he was saying because his accent was so thick, he couldn’t understand what me and my wife were trying to tell him either. Then, the unimaginable happened! This doctor said to us, and this is verbatim what he said, “I AM A TERRORIST AND I KILL VETERANS”!!!! At first we were so shocked we didn’t know what to do but then realty set in and I told my wife let’s get out of here. We went straight to the Patient Advocates office and filed a formal complaint against him and asked to be assigned a new Primary Care doctor because I told them that I will never go back to that “supposed” doctor again. Well, that started a very long journey that was a total nightmare. I went for 17 MONTHS WITHOUT A PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR! I fought for 17 long months just trying to get a new Primary Care assigned to me. Nobody cared though and nobody listened. I finally had to march into the head administrator’s office and demand that someone help me, only to be assigned to a small clinic outside of the main Atlanta VAMC, that when I went to my first appointment they wouldn’t see me and then assigned me back to someone else back at the main Atlanta VA where I already was! And what was the outcome of all this? Nothing! That very same doctor, who told me to my face that he “was a terrorist” and that he “kills Veterans” is still working there to this day!!

    So, please forgive me if I find this article not only laughable, but also shameful. I have tried my best to write this in a respectful manner and not let my emotions be involved, but to even suggest that Veterans actually receive annual physicals is almost too much to process right now. I don’t know what the rest of this country’s VAMC’s do, but I can tell you from my experience that the Atlanta VA does not follow this at all.

  3. George Brooks    

    I heard they were thinking about privatizing the VA. All that’s not true. I recently used the primary care the Express med on the economy deal and it wasn’t too hard to use and I was able to get help and get the medicine everything else it’s a good program stick with this one don’t just cancel it after the election. All the way airborne Brooks

  4. George Brooks    

    The VA in Tulsa Oklahoma the behavioral health has a doctor that barely speaks English and almost killed me three times that hospital Muskogee is a death trap. Want to fix that and build a new VA hospital in Tulsa the one in Muskogee was built for Tulsa was even founded in the oil and have to take a 40 minute bus ride a stogie and then wait and wait and wait why don’t you get a hold of senator inhofe and build one a VA hospital in Tulsa Oklahoma you’ll get more votes doing that then dropping bombs. Brooks

  5. Richard Bryson    

    I am 78 and I have been going to the VA for two years. I have been treated much better than I was prior by the clev. Clinc. provider. They started charging a facility charge of 105.00 for office charge, beside the regular office visit. They double book, I have waited up to an hour past my time for appointment. I can honestly say that I have nothing but good things to say about my treatment, at the VA hospital in Cleveland And Parma Ohio.

  6. Jp    

    WHATS THE POINT THEY DONT GIVE S SHT ABOUT YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE, at least in Lakewood Washington they don’t,

    1. TT    

      I agree, Not one sht.

  7. James C Buchanan    

    Hello: Just wondering why most of the primary care doctors don’t digitally check a males prostate during a physical examination.at Castle Point. Penn State did a study on the importance of digitally checking the prostate and not just rely on the blood test. The report stated that if one does not have his prostate felt by a doctor the patient may have cancer and not know it. The percentage is mentioned in the report.

    What about having an EKG and making sure your heart is in good shape? That also was missed at my physical exam.

    What about checking his testicles and having him cough? Yup also missed at my physical.

    What about the part where the doctor taps my knee and checks my reflexes?

    GOOD NEWS: The hospital is finally getting new mattresses for their very sick and dying veterans. TOO SOFT. What took you so long. You are getting new mattresses right? Hopefully that was not more fake news.

    Sorry but this is my opinion. I believe the service at Castle Point is so poor only because most of the veterans are very poor and very old. They feel that this is normal or par for the course and can’t do anything about it. The good news is that you can speak up and for now I am dong it for you. I’m sure Castle Point is not the only facility that mistreats and shows no respect for the veterans they serve.

    Sincerely yours,

    James C. Buchanan
    Hopewell Junction, NY

  8. Bradley E. Bolden    

    I am assigned to Tampa VA Spinal cord injury center and there is a clear directive on testing that ALL SCI patients MUST have, yet here I am since 2012 getting no proper testing nor documentation of my medical issues. My next is Jan 6ht and I won’t be wasting my time and endangering my life anymore. My test include Soc. Worker (I don’t have an assigned one), Labs (which they don’t report on UR blood, etc), doc screening which I don have a PCM, Kinesiotherapy (I still don’t know what this is since I sit as the ask me a few questions and write whatever they want) and PSYCHOL, were last you the guy wrote a false statement about a DOMESTIC VIOLENCE history NEVER happened. This is what you can expect from those claiming to save veterans lives. I fought 2 years for a sleep study Positive, No Bone density tests, etc, I have been diagnosed with neurological bladder (they don’t mention the bowels,) Somehow instead of rating and treating INCOMPELETE Quadriplegic C4-C7 lesion, Severe Cervical radiculopahty with DEMILINATION, Lumbar Radiculapathy with AXONAL DEGENERATION, , Syringomelia and syringobulia wich lead to TBI vision, digestive heart, blood, intention tremors, Action Myoclonus in all 4 limbs (Segmental spinal) Yep not buying that you care at all

    1. Jp    

      Whatever you do my friend do not do radiation treatment, as soon as they find out you got cancer they will write you off just like they did me. There a bunch of incompetent doctors I’m proof of that nobody gives a shit about quality of life for us. VA is ******* up my story is too long

  9. PAUL SHERBINO    

    I AM A RETIRED 100% DISABLED VETERAN. CAN I GO TO A CIVILIAN DOCTOR FOR A COMPLETE PHYSICAL EXAM UNDER TRICARE FOR LIFE AND MEDICARE COMBINED?

  10. GARY L LACLAIR    

    I also asked for a annual physical, I was told they do do that anymore.

  11. Richard Gaskill    

    You’d better not rely on the VA testing for proper diagnosis and treatment. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 and had a prostatectomy in February 2009. I had no connection with the VA and had labs done by my private PCP 3 months, 6 months, and a year after surgery with nearly undetectable PSA readings. Then a VA clinic opened near my home and I relied solely on the VA for labs. In June 2016 I filed a claim related to prostate cancer. In December I had a C&P exam and the physician stated I was in remission and I was awarded 10% disability for residual effects of surgery. Two months later the VA informed me my PSA was ” a little high”. That was 6.0. Feeling something was very wrong I researched rising PSA after prostatectomy. I learned if a postprostatectomy patient has PSA exceeding 0.2 there is recurring cancer. I check my lab history. MY PSA began to more than double each year in 2011. In 2013 my PSA was 0.335. A competent physician would have recognized recurring cancer and referred me to a urologist for treatment. When I had my C&P exam my PSA was 4.0.
    I saw a private urologist in May 2017, was diagnosed with recurring cancer and awarded 100%. Then the battle began. The VA denied a request for reconsideration of the 2016 decision. When my congressman became involved VA responses were evasive and deceptive. After an appeal and a Supplemental Evidence claim this year and a C&P exam by a private physician that reviewed my lab history the VA admitted I had recurring cancer since 2013 but could only back the effective date back to my June 2016 claim. I filed a complaint with the Tennessee Medical Board against the physician that performed the 2016 C&P exam. They have contacted me and there is an ongoing investigation.
    In 2013 I sought treatment when I was experiencing short blackouts. The neurologist in Evansville, IN sent me to Marion, IL for testing. After the test I was told to do a followup with the neurologist. An appointment was set for 3 weeks later. A few days before that appointment the VA called and canceled the appointment and made one for 60 days later. During that time I was due to renew my DOT physical for my CDL. Not knowing the cause of blackouts I stopped driving and did not go for the physical. Because I went 60 days without renewing the physical I had to give up my CDL after 40 years of driving. I didn’t experience any more blackouts so I never went back to the neurologist. In 2016 when I started seeing a private PCP because of lack of confidence with the VA the doctor obtained and reviewed my VA files. I was told the tests at Marion showed I had a partially blocked carotid artery. My blackouts were the result of me turning my head to the right causing further blockage. The blackouts had stopped because I was taking increased cholesterol medicine, I wasn’t turning my head that far after I stopped driving, and not sitting in a truck all day I was more active and had better circulation. Marion should have notified my provider at my local clinic and when the VA neurologist wasn’t available I should have been referred to a private neurologist. It’s very likely I could have been treated in time to keep my CDl.

  12. Gregory Anderson    

    They can do all of the in 10-15 min? Because that is the amount of time your in with the doctor.
    Never have had a skin screening they don’t even have you remove your sweater or roll up your sleeve when they take your blood pressure.

    1. David Jones    

      IN 2017 I quit going to the VA Med Clinic. Started seeing a Private Doc 10 miles further. I have Medicare, and to be truthful, Private Docs also do as little as possible, unless the insurance is a GREAT insurance plan. I virtually have to order my own tests, and suggest to the Doc what I might be suffering from in order for him to stay in the room an extra minute or 2. I have also told him what med I want. OTHERWISE he would not have suggested. It’s everywhere, not just the VA.

  13. Austin T. Waters    

    I presently live full-time in Thailand. However, I’m going to visit June 2nd, 2020 in Tampa, Fl. Can you direct me as to how I can get a complete physical exam upon my arrival?

    1. Ken Simpson    

      Just today came from my “6 month check up”. Had labs done, blood pressure checked, took temp and listened to chest. Talked with the same female doc I’ve had for years. Never could figure why they give male patients female docs. ’cause there has never been any mention of checking for a hernia or stuff like that with her. Guess if I get male problems I’ll have to go somewhere besides the VA.

  14. Joesph McGrath    

    Some bases are experiencing issue with PFOA’s being used during their careers. This solution, a fire fighting solution has leached into the aquifer and poisoned the local water supply for the Horsham, Warminster, Warrington, Pennsylvania area.
    The Navy/ DOD deny any involvement or the ramifications that may be affecting former employees including civilians and Veterans. Currently VA is not involved which should change as these conditions happened as a result of Willow Grove NAS while employed there. I have been advocating for VA involvement and will continue into 2020.
    Joseph P. McGrath, Sr. MSgt. (ret)
    1973-2007
    Based is BRAC’ed 2005
    Hatboro, Pa. 19040
    WE NEED HELP.

  15. Bud Lambert    

    I think the term Annual Physical is a little misleading. I’m a over 65 year old vet that has been with the VA for less than two years. Prior to VA health care I had yearly Annual Physicals paid by Medicare. On my last visit with my VA Primary I asked about scheduling for an annual physical and she said that the new guidlines don’t cover this anymore?

    1. Ronald Martz    

      So is an annual physical covered or not?

      1. J. H. Sanders    

        I am 79 and canceled my medicare 15 years ago for the monthly cost taken from my SS. Thoughts were that I had VA, so no problem. Now, not only does my PCP (a nurse, doctors are too busy elsewhere) not give me a full physical, but when I am seen annually it is a brief social encounter. I asked about tests, x-rays, EKG, prostate, etc, and was told that the VA had ordered them too expensive after age 75 since the time to cure is greater than the time to die. Several letters and emails to whoever I thought might help resulted in a phone call telling me that it would be in my best interest to shut the hell up. Then I started getting threatening letters from Atlanta changing my Priority Group status from 5 to 8, then back to 5 a month later. Just to give me a taste. They win.

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