Eight Veteran Health Issues And Ways To Improve Healthcare

Veteran Health

For the majority of members serving in the armed forces, military life has a positive impact on their health. However, the duration of their service in any particular area and the severity of their duties can harm a lot of veterans.

Military personnel is involved in various dangerous activities throughout their careers; they sacrifice their well-being while serving their country. It may lead to a lot of health problems later in life. The mental, social, and physical health problems range from brain injuries, amputations, addictions, and depression to PTSD.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is America’s most influential healthcare system, responsible for providing care to veterans. The integrated design of VHA works with community health providers and private insurance companies. They ensure the prompt assistance of registered veterans for their health problems with the best health care possible.

These healthcare providers and facilities are well-equipped to deal with complex veteran health issues. Environmental exposures, mesothelioma, post-traumatic disability, and mental and behavioral health problems are the most prevalent issues among veterans.

These facilities and health providers not only focus on identifying the entire scope of illnesses, injuries, and other diseases but also help veterans get necessary legal help. Some lawyers can help veterans and their families learn how to file a claim against mesothelioma, which is cancer caused by asbestos exposure, and assist them in other legal settlements.

Military personnel may be healthier than their peers in other professions. However, the repeated stress and trauma, which starts at training and continues stemming through their entire service period, ironically becomes the main reason for health problems later.

Top 8 Veteran Health Issues

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey in the US suggested that 53000 veterans suffer from health problems. Those who fail to practice healthy habits are more prone to illnesses and diseases. Self-care is essential and recommended to impact well-being. It can help soothe existing health conditions and enhance the effectiveness of medical treatments.

Unhappy male patient listening to a psychologist counselor advice

Discussed below are the eight most common veteran health problems and ways to improve healthcare:

1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is one of the most common health problems. The American Psychiatric Association named the combat-related psychological disorder in 1980 when soldiers returned from world war I and demonstrated acute stress symptoms. This condition may develop after experiencing life-threatening events, natural disasters, or sexual assaults.

Common symptoms include numbing, shunning, hyperarousal, flashbacks of events, nightmares, and anxiety. Although both men and women working in the military experience the same symptoms, some are more common in women.

2. Traumatic brain injury

After PTSD, traumatic brain injury is the most significant of veteran health problems caused by a blow to the head or body. It is divided into three categories; mild, moderate, and severe. Militants with mild injuries may experience imparities that might last for a few hours, days, or weeks.

Moderate and severe injuries can result in permanent disabilities. These disabilities can cause changes in thinking patterns, communication skills, personality, and sometimes the ability to walk and talk properly. Such disabilities can cause lifelong trauma for veterans and their families.

3. Toxic exposure

Veterans exposed to hazardous materials like asbestos, chemical weapons, smoke from a fire, operational temperature extremes, and particles from the vaporization of armed vehicles due to explosions have a higher risk of developing heart and lung diseases.

Hazardous exposure does not necessarily affect you immediately but can have life-threatening repercussions years later. Asbestos exposure, for instance, may cause mesothelioma, a type of fatal cancer.

4. Substance use disorders(SUDs)

The stressful conditions during military service can often lead to drug and alcohol addictions. SUDs can coexist with other health problems like the persistent feeling of guilt, fear, shame, distress, sadness, misery, or sleeplessness.

5. Musculoskeletal injuries and chronic pain

Musculoskeletal injuries are a leading cause of disabilities in veterans. Physical training and exercises, long work days, pre-deployment activities, exposure to blasts, and running on uneven surfaces while wearing heavy equipment increase the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

According to the National Health Interview Survey, veterans are three times more likely to develop back and neck injuries/fractures, knee/joint injuries, arthritis/rheumatism, and other disorders.

6. Military sexual trauma (MST)

The most severe and threatening form of sexual harassment sustained by military personnel is MST. Women are at a greater risk of this trauma than men. 1 in 4 female veterans, whereas 1 in 100 male veterans experience sexual trauma. Studies show a significant correlation between this trauma with other mental health issues. It also poses a higher risk of developing PTSD.

7. Amputations

Veterans may suffer from loss of limbs or arms due to battle injuries. Sometimes the soldiers sustain injuries that may risk their lives. Medical advancement increases the chances of survival after life-threatening injuries with amputation of the arms and limbs. It may cause stress and depression among veterans.

8. Demographics

Not only service-based factors but demographic factors like gender, old age, unemployment, low income, low education, and ethnicity can also negatively affect veterans’ mental and physical well-being.

Ways To Improve Veteran healthcare

Young healthcare worker listening to military man who is lying down on sofa and talking to her

Veterans need to have the following for better physical and mental health.

  • Easy access to health facilities, treatments, and community providers
  • Educating them and their families about their illnesses and possible treatment options available
  • The needs of veterans are different from those of the non-veteran population. They need advice and consultation to suit their needs.
  • Spread awareness about veteran health problems through various community programs and services can benefit the veterans to secure health benefits
  • Encouraging mindfulness through training programs can help reduce stress and anxiety, increase self-awareness, and cope effectively with chronic diseases.
  • Implementation of standardized screening and health evaluation processes in the health care system can help early detection of illness for proper treatment.

Happy female doctor reading medical data of a soldier while having counselling at his home

Conclusion

Veterans sacrifice a lot while serving their country. They are at a greater risk of severe injuries and health problems because of job requirements while serving in the forces.

Their health is affected by several factors like deployment location, mental issues, strict physical training and exercises, exposure to chemicals and hazardous materials, combat injuries, and other chronic illnesses.

Easy access to health care, knowledge of existing problems, and awareness to live a healthy life with the help of community health providers can make a big difference in improving veteran health-related issues.

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