VA's research on Parkinson's shows promise


POSTED: Sunday, February 08, 2009


Question: What is the latest research the Department of Veterans Affairs is doing on Parkinson's disease?

Answer: Electrical stimulation of the brain - a treatment in which a pacemakerlike device sends pulses to electrodes implanted in the brain - is riskier than drug therapy but may hold significant benefits for those with Parkinson's disease who no longer respond well to medication alone. That is the conclusion of VA researchers and National Institutes of Health who conducted a six-year study comparing deep-brain stimulation to medication, along with speech, physical or occupational therapy. The results of the trial, the largest of its kind to date, appeared in the Jan. 7 Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study included 255 Parkinson's patients at seven VA medical centers and six university hospitals. Patients who took part in the study were on medication but are no longer seeing improvements in symptoms such as tremors or stiffness. Many were also developing side effects from the drugs, such as involuntary face, arm or leg movements. Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder, affects some 1.5 million Americans, with 50,000 new cases diagnosed annually. VA treats at least 40,000 veterans with the disorder each year.

Q: Is VA amending its regulations regarding enrollment in the VA health care system?

A: Yes. The VA may establish additional subpriorities within enrollment priority category 8 beginning in June. VA would enroll priority category 8 veterans whose income exceeds the current means test threshold and geographic means test income thresholds by 10 percent or less. These veterans will be placed in Priority Group 8b or 8d. These changes do not open enrollment to all Priority 8 veterans. For more information contact the VA at 433-0600.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran, call Fred Ballard at the Department of Veterans Affairs at 433-0049.