Spinal Cord Injuries and Disorders System of Care
ServicesWe provide lifelong patient-centered, primary and specialty care and services for eligible Veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders.
Promoting a healthy lifestyle
Healthy living is important for everyone. Living with a spinal cord injury or disorder could change the strategies you use to stay healthy. We can help you understand what’s needed, make a plan for staying healthy, and offer resources to help you.
Whole Health is a new concept for delivery of care within VA. In the Whole Health model, you will decide what matters to you. This means your health care will be even more focused on your needs and goals.
For more information about Whole Health within VA,
- Visit our Whole Health web page
- Read about Veterans' Whole Health stories
- Visit our Whole Health Basics page.
or watch this short video:
Annual evaluationsAnnual evaluations for people with a spinal cord injury and disorder (SCI/D) need to be much more extensive than the standard yearly physical because your care is much more comprehensive. Your annual evaluation should be done by a team of spinal cord injury experts who will focus on any existing problems and help you with preventive care. Preventive care is a very important part of the annual evaluation because a focus on staying healthy can help prevent complications. The best place for Veterans with SCI/D to receive an annual exam is at one of our 25 SCI/D Centers.
Tobacco cessationIf you’re ready to quit, we have programs to help you stop using tobacco.
Adaptive sportsWe have many different adaptive sports programs for Veterans with SCI/D. Depending on your interests and needs, this might mean getting an adapted handcycle so you can go bike riding with your family, or it might be competing in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
NutritionWe have people and resources to help you understand and choose healthy nutrition options.
- Nutrition and Spinal Cord Injury (pdf)
- Home Cooking (video)
Weight managementOur MOVE program can help you lose weight and stay healthy.
Medical care / surgical careStaff at our SCI/D Centers are highly trained and knowledgeable, for inpatient medical and surgical needs, the best care for Veterans with SCI/D will be at one of our 25 SCI/D Centers.
Rehabilitation servicesAvailable therapies:
- Physical therapy: Physical Therapists provide services to help restore maximum function through increasing mobility and strength and decreasing pain. Treatment may include muscle re-education, mobility training, gait training; wheelchair skills; therapeutic exercise; pain relief modalities; and other appropriate treatment techniques.
- Occupational therapy: Occupational Therapists help you regain the ability to do everyday tasks. This may be achieved by restoring old skills or helping you learn new skills using a variety of adaptive equipment, orthotics, and home modifications including smart home technologies and environmental control units.
- Speech therapy: Speech and Language Pathologists work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorder.
- Recreational therapy: Recreational Therapists meet with you to assess your skills and abilities while addressing your interests and needs, paying special attention to the different kinds of things you like to do for fun. Personalized treatment plans are developed to address physical, social, and emotional needs and to help you return to familiar, or develop new, leisure activities.
- Vocational therapy: Vocational Counselors provide services for career exploration, academic goals, and vocational alternatives. They work with you to examine your interests, abilities, and goals. They also look at your functional limitations and seek out compensatory strategies
- Respiratory therapy: Respiratory Therapists provide services to optimize heart and lung (cardiopulmonary) health. They teach you and your family about treatment and maintenance of pulmonary health problems, including the use of respiratory therapy equipment and medications.
- Assistive Technology Professionals: These specialists will work with you to assess your needs and assist in selecting and training you to use assistive technology devices. The devices will assist you in optimizing your level of function and independence in your home and community.
- Social work: Social Workers will assist you with many aspects of care, such as preparing and implementing your discharge plan, arranging meetings with you and your family, arranging a schedule for family training days and working with other interdisciplinary team members. Social workers at your local VA will help coordinate your care with the SCI/D Centers. Social workers also help you find resources in your community.
Mental healthServices are provided for psychology, substance abuse, depression anxiety, suicide prevention, and peer support and counseling.
VA’s suicide prevention page
We offer Veterans with SCI/D a variety of programs and support groups including some groups that meet face-to-face and others that meet using telehealth. VA’s Mental Health page is a good place to start looking at what’s available. For Veterans with SCI/D, mental health support can include adjustment to SCI/D, family counseling, tobacco cessation counseling, and other important topics.
Primary carePrimary Care for Veterans with SCI/D is available through many locations in VA including SCI/D Centers and the Spoke sites. We recommend that you get your primary care through an SCI/D primary care team because they are trained in the special needs of people with SCI/D. However, even if you don’t choose to get your primary care through an SCI/D primary care team, your SCI/D team can be involved with your care to ensure that your care is tailored to your specific needs.
Long term careVA has a number of long-term care options including SCI/D Long-Term Care facilities, contract nursing homes, and other options. Contact the closest SCI/D Center to get more information about options in your area.
Home careVeterans who live within 100 miles of an SCI/D Center may be eligible for home care services from the Center.
TelehealthTelehealth can help you access care more conveniently. VA is increasing its use of telehealth for Veterans; this means that you may be able to get care from a location that’s more convenient.
Respite careIf you have a caregiver, respite care can help when your caregiver needs a break.
- VA Compensation, Benefits, and specialized grants for eligible Veterans
- Adaptive sports and recreational activities
- Driver’s training and vehicle adaptation recommendations
- Exoskeleton and robotics training
- Peer support groups
- Comprehensive annual evaluations
- Community partnerships and resources
- Bowel and Bladder Caregiver Compensation Program
- Medications, supplies and equipment
- Research opportunities Caregiver supportive services
- Personal health planning