Veterans: The Importance of Sharing Your Status with Healthcare Professionals

November 07, 2022
4 min read


Brian Shunk, DO


About half of military veterans see healthcare providers outside the Veteran's Administration (VA) healthcare system. While the VA treats the unique healthcare needs of veterans, healthcare providers outside of the VA may not have that level of experience. Still, they should know about your service to our country.

Veterans may have different healthcare situations than those who have not served in the military. Over the last decade, different medical professions have begun to ask patients if they have served in the military, and this is a step in the right direction. When healthcare providers know they are taking care of a veteran, it can provide clues to what that patient's care may look like.

If you are a veteran and your primary care provider does not ask about your military service, you should offer that information to them. For example, a cough or back pain may be perceived as minor when presented by a patient who has not served in the military, but a military veteran may be experiencing Gulf War Syndrome, which has its own established care protocols.

Just being a veteran is not an indication of a medical condition. Many veterans return from service without any medical problems. However, medical issues are not always visible and are not only limited to the veteran. Military veterans are more likely to have experienced traumatic situations, which can have a lasting impact. Also, prolonged, and repeated deployments may affect both the veteran and their loved ones.

Mount Nittany Health encourages veterans to schedule annual check-ups with their healthcare providers. During your visit, be prepared to disclose your veteran status. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your provider and tell them what you want to get done at that visit. For example, you may be experiencing back pain, headaches or are not tolerating medicine well. Let them know this at the beginning of your visit before you forget.

If you have any concerns about your health, even if you are not experiencing symptoms, it's good to let your healthcare provider know about them. Your healthcare provider is your advocate, and they are there to help. If you are drinking too much, having sexual problems, or having trouble controlling your bladder, it is ok to tell them. They have seen it and can work with you to find a solution.

While most healthcare providers are good at explaining things in layperson terms, you might not always understand what they say. When this happens, ask for a more straightforward explanation. They may even draw a picture or have additional materials to share with you to help you understand. You can also ask them to write down things they want you to remember.

Mount Nittany Health thanks all of the veterans in our community for their service. We want you to know that you have a caring home at Mount Nittany Health for your unique healthcare needs. 

Mount Nittany Health recommends regular health exams with your medical provider and screening tests to find issues before they start when your chances for treatment and cure are better. By getting the right health services, screenings and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances of living a longer, healthier life.

Call Mount Nittany Health at 844.278.4600 to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider.

About The Author


“My philosophy of patient care is to help every patient, every time, to the very best of my ability,” says Dr. Shunk. “Helping them achieve their health goals is my number one priority.”

Dr. Shunk earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from The Pennsylvania State University, and his medical degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his orthopedic surgery internship at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Dr. Shunk completed his family practice residency at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas, where he served as chief resident. He is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.

“The experiences I share with my patients – as part of their healthcare journey – inspires me as a physician,” Dr. Shunk says. “I look forward to joining Mount Nittany Physician Group and working together with my patients toward optimum health.”

Outside of the office, Dr. Shunk enjoys spending time with his wife, Jill, and their four children. He is active in community service, especially Boy Scouts of America, and in the care of area veterans. Dr. Shunk enjoys spending time outdoors and the arts.

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