Despite Access to Care, Male Veterans in Poorer Health than Civilian Men

By Valerie DeBenedette, Health Behavior News Service

Even with access to health care, male military veterans are in poorer health than men in active military duty, men in the National Guard and Reserves, and civilian men, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study concluded that organizations that serve veterans should increase efforts at preventing poor health behaviors and linking them to health care services.

The findings are from a 2010 survey of 53,000 veterans, 3,700 Guard and Reserve members, 2,000 active duty servicemen and 110,000 civilians. The survey included questions about their health and health behaviors, and their access to health care. A similar study of women veterans, National Guard/Reserve members, active servicewomen and civilians was published earlier this year by the same research team.

“We think our research substantiates claims that veterans bear a disproportionate disease burden,” said Katherine D. Hoerster, Ph.D., MPH, a research psychologist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle. Survey results found that veterans were more likely than active duty men to report diabetes. Veterans were more likely to report current smoking and heavy alcohol consumption than men in the National Guard and Reserves and civilian men and a lack of exercise compared to active duty and National Guard and Reserve. National Guard and Reserve men had higher obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (versus active duty and veteran men, active duty men, and civilian men, respectively). Active duty men were more likely to report current smoking and heavy alcohol consumption than civilians and National Guard and Reserves, and reported more smokeless tobacco use than civilians.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) addresses these common health concerns, Hoerster noted that only 37 percent of eligible veterans receive care through the VA system of hospitals. In addition, National Guard and Reserve servicemen were found to be the least likely of the groups to have access to health care. The researchers advised that other health care providers need to be aware of the prevalence of these health issues facing Guard and Reserve servicemen and veterans.

The finding that National Guard and Reserve members have poorer access to care should be addressed, Hoerster added. “This is an important military sub-population to target.” One factor may be that members of the National Guard and Reserves are not linked up to services provided by the VA as effectively as active duty service members are when they leave the military, she noted. The greater prevalence of heart problems and diabetes reported by these servicemen makes poor access to care even more problematic, she said.

Increased rates of tobacco and alcohol use reported by active duty servicemen can lead to greater health problems for this group in the future, Hoerster said. “Addressing tobacco and alcohol use should also be a top priority.”

Other research has suggested that veterans have a higher disease burden because of their military service, said Joy Ilem, deputy national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, an organization that serves veterans and provides assistance in learning about and applying for benefits. However, it is surprising that this study found that veterans have poorer health outcomes and poorer health behavior than other groups given the emphasis that the VA puts on prevention of disease and promotion of a healthy lifestyle, Ilem observed.

“Not all vets have a connection to the VA system, but they may need one in the future,” she added. Veterans who have health issues directly related to their service are more likely to use VA facilities and are more likely to be sicker than the overall population of veterans, Ilem added.

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October 3, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


12 Responses to “Despite Access to Care, Male Veterans in Poorer Health than Civilian Men”

  1. Raymond Williams Sr. on November 7th, 2012 8:10 am

    I suffered a mini stroke while over seas on active duty in the late 70’s.
    Since retiring for the AF after 22 yrs of service i have diabetes, nerve damage
    in my legs and feet, prostate cancer and arthritis in my spine all i feel is
    result of active duty service. I am currently listed as 10% disable.
    Should i be able to up grade my status?

  2. STEVE PAPAGEORGE on November 7th, 2012 8:16 am

    I am 70% service connected for hypertensention and heart problems since 1966 when I was awarded10% but also have developed diabetic 2 in the last 6 year which is not connected to my service connected disability but is treated by the VA. They use to have me go for medical exams every 3 to 4 months now it’s every 6 months They did chest x-rays once a year now I have had none for at least 2 years. It’s a good thing I have an outside cardiologist to keeps up with that. The only give you one glucose strip for every 3 day to keep control of your sugar level if your A1C is under 7.0 and you don’t need to use insulin. In other words they want it to get worse before the even care to do anything when it’s to late and your pancreas is really going down hill. This is the way you are treated now days.

  3. Anthony Smith on November 7th, 2012 8:41 am

    I am a veteran who has experienced these sysptoms and I am glad to see this write up shed some light on this subject.
    I was deployed to Afghanistan (Khost) in 2004-2005. When I went through my Army medical evaluation to see if I was fit for duty, I was given a clean bill of health and went out and performed my duty for my country. I had never been hospitalized in my entire life before I went to Afghanistan!
    Upon my return to the States I was diagnosed with hypertension,high blood pressure, diabetes, deep vein embolism (blood clots).
    I filed a claim with the Veterans Affairs but it was denied!

    Please continue to report on this issue and if their is any available help for me and others Veterans being denied on this issue please send a email with assistance on this matter, thank again.

  4. anthony smith on November 7th, 2012 8:43 am

    after transfering my medical care to nevada, my new dr. found cause to have a ultra sound of my neck. I have a blockage in my artery leading to my left arm. will most likely have surgery next year. If not for my Dr. s expert care I might have gone years without a diagnosis. I am very thankful for the care I recieve from the V A.

  5. David J Silveira on November 7th, 2012 12:50 pm

    I have read your article on veterans health care, “veterans in poorer health”.
    I believe that you have missed the causal effect entirely. Mainly veterans at large don’t trust doctors, much less the generic impersonal service, and government employee’s “sweat shop/piece work attitudes” which has gotten markedly worst over the last several years. I have “sucked it up” and have left my healthcare to the VA. Yes, my choice. The problem is the long standing stigma the VA health services exudes because of their apparent feeling that NObody can touch them legally.
    As far as alcohol and smoking is concerned, one just has to look at the history of the the various veterans services; such DAV, VFW, American Legion,etc, which have had and still have bars and allow smoking. These are things that have their genesis in the basic unwritten rules of boot camp. “Smoke ’em if you got them and my service branch can out drink your service branch mentality” Unlearn those habits like one can unlearn their basic and engrained drill master training for they are one and the same.
    The VA approach is obsolete as long supreiors are mismanaging their responsibilities and employees don’t get they are just that employees not life tenured leaches. OK not all but, enough to taint the well!
    The fix, open health insurance cards so vets don’t feel stuck with system,(read PEOPLE) who treat them as merely a days work.

    Then the alcohol and substance, tobacco”, issue stems from intense lack of trust and where they can get the only reassuring physical proximity without the issues home or psycho treatment leaves them with and this results in symptoms which are more physical than mental because their smoking/drinking buddy’s are the only ones who understand them.

    Of course you have heard this all before, but the cost (read Dollars) is not in the right hands. Ho Humm!

  6. Don Malone on November 7th, 2012 9:31 pm

    I have a twin brother who was in the air force while I was drafted and sent to Vietnam. He is in good shape while I linger with diabetes and agent orange which has caused me to have tremors. I take three times the number of pills than my brother and am and was 100% disabled starting in 2003. I have had the stress of fighting to get benefits for this and have anger issues.I believe the service was the worst thing that ever happened to me and I have had a hard life because of it!

  7. Danny Estridge on November 7th, 2012 9:33 pm

    Of course, what do you want, the only way we would do our selves is in combat, capture is not not an option, as we might say or know something that ain’t cool. So my generation that took care of business for f–king people that don’t understand. Well, we did our job, now I’m not sure about all the other bro’s. Not sure what’s going on, except I need to smoke and drink more everyday. Guess you can call it slow motion suicide, no reason to pull trigger, so guess what’s left, however, what’s left of us will go in to help(we already know what that means, but it’s worth the cost) regardless, although according to Patton(I love this, though I can’t remember it properly). Something to do with war. “Tis better to die by the last bullet, on the last day, of the last war then to submit to submission from the “rulers”. Hope I got that somewhat right, now I’m just waiting to die or fight, depends on the people, it’s cool I won’t last that long, just give time for people to figure out what to do, if they have any smarts. I’ll shut up now OK, Thanx, Danny

  8. Marcus Lindsay on November 8th, 2012 3:49 pm

    I’m a Viet Nam Veteran. But I can’t get help from the VA for my diabetis or my 2 open heart surgeries. I have filed claims and heard that they’re still working on it. They keep wanting me to submit forms which I’ve already done. I just want them to acknowledge I was over there. I don’t know how to get hold of ships records. I’ve tried. It’s sad that the VA can’t take a mans word for his service.

  9. raymond on November 9th, 2012 5:50 am

    i just want to start by saying thank you all for your service to our country.iam a 100 % desert storm vet when i came home from combat i started haveing seizure and intense head achs wich i still suffer from and i was discharged with a 10% rating i played the va game for around 10 years.the va had me going around in circles with forms and doctors and could not get any thing done to increase my rating then in 2000 my condition from my milltary service became worse to the point that i could no longer drive wich ment i could no longer well knowing that the va was only going to send me in circles i went strait to the top i sent the head of the va a letter with all my evedense and within 30 days iwas rated at 100% a good thing too cause in 2010 i developed testiacler cancer in wich iwas greatful for the doctors at the va they got right on it and saved my life then in 2011 i devloped type 1 diabites now i have kept my self in shape and i was never obese but the va has came through with all the things i needed for my diabets the va isnt the problem its in the way we go abought our ratings if you were in combat i think the va should give these men and women a 100% rating as soonas there service ends.

  10. Bruno Sampayan on November 11th, 2012 9:50 am

    I retired at the end of 2001 and was diagnosed with type II sometimes after that (approx 2-3 years). Not by the VA but an HMO doctor. I was told by the VA doctor that it was not Service-Related because it wasn’t diagnosed before I had my final medical eval with an Air Force doctor. Remember all the fuss about “Anthrax shots were mandatory or you will be reprimanded or something if you refused to get all the shots”? I did not receive all the required number of shots (maybe 4-5 only because they spread them out over time) then either some military members from across the board started refusing the shots even if they got in trouble because they didn’t like the idea of getting anthrax shots. I think the first mandatory shot started in 1997. So when I retired in 2001 I didn’t get any more of that shot. I BELIEVE that those anthrax shots contribute to type II diabetes after a few years. Where is the research on this very controversial shot? How long did it take the experts to recognize the effect of agent Agent Orange? How long more will it take to do research on this mandatory Anthrax shot to see if this is the cause of type II within the military ranks from the first day it was administered to those who couldn’t refused because of their duty to serve this great nation and its citizen? Start a simple questionnaire and mail it to military and civilian members who received anthrax from day one. How many shot/s did a member receive and when did they retire. When were they diagnosed of type II or type I diabetes. That is it. Regardless whether a member deployed or not, unlike Agent Orange, the exposure to anthrax shot is in your system. Lets get this ball rolling! Thanks and Happy Veterans Day my fellow VETERANS.

  11. Jimmy on November 12th, 2012 2:48 pm

    The food served to service members is very unhealthy. Our healthcare consist of a choice of poison vaccinations, X-Rays, or radiation. There is barely anything healthy in the commisary but tons of unhealthy things. The water is poisoned with floridation even if the local community isn’t. Do I see a patern here?

  12. Anthony Kazlauskas on November 15th, 2012 5:31 am

    I am a retired seabee with diabetes, heart disease-2 stents, acute myloid leukemia-which I believe is from radiation exposure from Johnston Atoll. I regularly use the VA for health care.

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