Recently, I worked on a case where a veteran’s medical records seemed to me, as a layperson, to reflect that she had type II diabetes. However, when I asked her if she had this condition, she said that she didn’t really know. The veteran remembered in the past that her doctors had said something about elevated blood sugars, and possibly that she had “borderline” diabetes. But, the reality was, she wasn’t sure if she was diabetic.
I know it might seem unbelievable to think that a person who is regularly followed by doctors doesn’t know whether or not they have diabetes. But, believe it or not, this veteran’s lack of awareness is very common, and it seems to me that this type of confusion is worse when veterans are receiving care through the VA medical system.
Normally, if a patient is being followed by a physician on a regular basis, he or she has to undergo laboratory blood testing a certain number of times per year. Depending on the labs that are performed, the doctor may or may not test for diabetes.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are multiple tests that can be used to diagnose type 2 diabetes. Specifically, a random blood sugar test, hemoglobin A1C test, fasting blood sugar test, and an oral glucose tolerance test.
In my experience, I’ve seen that oftentimes veterans will undergo the fasting blood sugar test, and if the results come back a little elevated, they’re told that they only have “borderline” diabetes, “impaired fasting glucose”, or “pre-diabetes.” After this, the bottom seems to fall out. Meaning, the veterans’ medical providers do not persistently follow up with the blood testing to find out if the veterans actually have diabetes or not. The veterans are only told to diet and exercise, and after that, nothing else happens.
Then, years and years go by. Then, five years later, the veteran is told that he or she has “newly diagnosed” diabetes, when in reality, it’s very possible that the veteran had diabetes at the time of the original blood testing which revealed the elevated glucose readings.
When veterans file claims for service connection for diabetes, the VA will likely use the date of the official diabetes diagnosis to determine many factors involving the claim. Therefore, if you have been told that you have borderline diabetes or impaired fasting glucose, it may be to your benefit to request that the doctor go beyond just the fasting blood glucose test, and request that your doctor order an oral glucose tolerance test and/or a hemoglobin A1c test. It is not uncommon to be diagnosed with diabetes after further and more extensive blood testing is performed.
Please do not walk around under the guise of “pre-diabetes,” when you actually do have diabetes. Sometimes you have to go beyond the surface, not only with the VA, but also with your doctors. Don’t lose precious benefits because you do not have an “official” diagnosis of diabetes. Get an accurate diagnosis.