A Second Chance for Disfigured Vets

The New York Times reported this week that a program based at the UCLA medical center is making great strides in undoing some of the most serious wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Established in 2007, Operation Mend is designed to give returning service members with severe facial injuries access to the nation’s top plastic and reconstructive surgeons and burn specialists.

The program, which works in tandem with the VA and the U.S. military, is aimed at providing disfigured Veterans with the type of reconstructive surgery traditionally deemed medically unnecessary by VA providers.  This surgery, however, provides Veterans with a “cosmetic and emotional revival” aimed at restoring confidence and easing the adjustment to life at home.

Along with similar ventures such as the Center for the Intrepid and Fisher House, Operation Mend has been able to supplement the often over-extended VA and military healthcare systems.

General Peter Chiarelli has embraced such programs, to which VA doctors are normally hesitant to refer their patients.

“Our problems are so big, we have to reach out beyond ourselves,” he said.


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