Study: Veteran Health 1-Year after Discharge
One thing the team has noticed in the recent years is that... Transition is hard.
It is one of the hardest things I've personally ever done, considering I have 15 years under my belt with various combat deployments worldwide with some of the most high-speed, class-act teammates, that says a lot.
After being medically "retired", aka forced out for being a physiological disaster... the first week felt okay, the military bullshit and bureaucracy was over and I was free. The second week I was bored, looking for my next adrenaline rush. By week three, I was on the verge of pushing myself with 1mg of Epinephrine to chase that rush and I was angry, for reasons unknown. Everything was different. Everything I knew had changed and everything I left had changed, I felt like I was the only one who remained the same.
At first, I thought I was alone in this, I thought maybe the stress of my repeated airborne-knee injuries or blast-related TBI's was my issue, or maybe my repeated anxiety and stress of re-acclimating and readjusting to the post-military me. But... I don't think I am alone in this. So, the question arises - how many of us combat veterans experience these issues post-military service? Does our military service [or lack thereof] impact our health? What about our "well-being"... as most of us secretly wish to adjust back into civilian life seamlessly, how many actually successfully transition with little-to-no issues?
[So, to feel our situation is normal] We found this publication from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, published in October 2019, focused on United States Military Veterans' Health and Well-Being in the First Year After Service, a piece of research conducted at the National Center for PTSD, Boston University Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.
Nearly 200,000 service members transition out of the military annually [adding to the 19-million veterans in the U.S.]. This study examined a nationwide sample of 9,566 veterans in the Fall of 2016 gathered from a recently-separated [Dept. of Veterans Affairs] roster... the researchers reviewed the veterans overall status, functioning and satisfaction as it relates to their health, work and social relationships. They questioned these veterans within 3-months of separation and then 6-months later.
Some veterans have no issues or minimal blocks when transitioning from military-to-civilian life, others however [like myself, and... majority of the HunterSeven team] do face challenges... whether it is getting a job, getting healthcare needs squared away [we know how the VA works], education and just being "normal" in the civilian societies eyes. But researchers have noted this 1-year time period is critical for intervention and successful reintegration. This specific study focused on veterans enrolled in the VA Healthcare System... but what about those veterans that literally fell of the face of the earth? Or the ones who don't use VA services, because as we've seen in previous research, approximately 23-25% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans utilize VAMC services, roughly 75-77% of that GWOT-cohort go unaccounted for. Average age of veteran respondents was 34.47 years, majority were male (82%) and white (66%). Seventy-five percent were enlisted, 23% in combat arms/infantry with an average of 1.83 deployments... I am envious
The study mentioned within the first month, most veterans face a "Honeymoon Phase" - mine lasted one week in total. It was interesting to see the trends however. Each variable was measured in 3-months post-separation and then 9-months post-separation. Majority of the variables seemed normal, considering... roughly 55% reported a physical health condition, 35% reported a mental health condition, 47% were satisfied with their current health status. Employment rate was 57% at 3-months out and 68% at 9-months out, but what struck me odd was that over time, veterans showed a two-fold increase in reports of "functioning less well at work" (7.5% increased to 13.2%, at 3- and 9-months) and decreasing work satisfaction over time. Relationship status and functioning was also interesting [I can attest to this], 80% stated they were in an intimate relationship... but only 62% stated it was functioning well and the same percentage was satisfied.
The top healthcare problems returning veterans faced early on was chronic pain, sleep problems and anxiety. All data sets gathered showed periodic increases in active symptoms within the 6-month difference, none decreased - meaning each veteran [medically] worse. Two participating veterans passed away during the research study... which bothered me. Discharging from the military and within 9-months, passing away... brings back to the toxic exposure potential or... the increased suicide risk, despite 13% reporting PTSD-symptoms and 20% reporting depression.
So... limitations are there, these veterans were all located through VAMC services.. accounting for only 1/4th of the over Iraq and Afghanistan veteran population. Interested in knowing others thoughts, perspectives, what conditions got better, which ones got worse? Immediately after? Nine months later?
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Tags: Research, Veteran Health, Wellness, Preventative Medicine
Citation: Vogt, D., Tyrell, F., Bramande, E., Nillni, Y., Taverna, E., Finley, E., Perkins, D. & Copeland, L., (2019) U.S. Military Veterans' Health and Well-Being in the First Year After Service. Am J Prev Med; 10(16) 1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2019.10.016