Health issues in veterans are of a different nature than in civilians. Veterans suffer a wide range of health conditions, many specific to their service or more common among them than the general population. These include mental health problems and injuries that last a lifetime and affect their life after discharge.
Their experiences during their service can cause both physical injuries and emotional distress. Some injuries during combat have life-threatening consequences and can leave them disabled for life. While not as severe, other minor injuries can still act as an impediment to their daily lives.
Additionally, the psychological shadow of their military experiences is hard to get rid of and manifests in the form of anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and depression. Throughout their service, they also put themselves at risk of health problems caused by unclean water consumption, exposure to various chemicals such as asbestos, infections, toxic fumes produced by burn pits, etc.
Many resources and programs are available to assist veterans and their families in leading healthy lives, including those provided by the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), which offers veterans medical assistance and disability payments to those who qualify.
Veterans And Chemical Exposure
For decades, the military used asbestos – a carcinogenic chemical, in ships, automobiles, buildings, and military bases. Veterans who served in the military or navy units before the 1980s were exposed to inhumane amounts of asbestos and are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
Thankfully, VA offers compensation and benefits to veterans and their loved ones with a mesothelioma diagnosis. Asbestos was employed more often in the Navy than in any other military branch, so the risk of mesothelioma navy veterans faced was higher than any other veterans. 30% of all mesothelioma cases every year are diagnosed in veterans. Hence, the VA provides a 100% disability rating to navy veterans suffering from mesothelioma.
VA Services For Mesothelioma Patients
Veterans and their loved ones with a service-related mesothelioma diagnosis are eligible for healthcare, disability compensation, indemnity compensation, burial benefits, and a special monthly compensation based on their disability rating.
Veterans And Blast Exposure
Blasts are considered a leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other sensory impairments such as headaches, vertigo, and dizzy spells among veterans. Tinnitus and hearing loss are the most common disabilities among veterans, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan due to the exposure to blasts and explosions of all sorts.
Furthermore, the effects of these injuries often correlate with other conditions. For example, traumatic brain injury is linked with an increased risk for tinnitus, dementia, suicide, hearing loss, or epilepsy. Similarly, tinnitus is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression among veterans.
Resources For Veterans With Blast Exposure
The Hearing Center of Excellence exists to help veterans with hearing loss and other auditory disabilities get the care they need. Its website provides access to resources such as audiologists and information on assistive technology to veterans and their families. Veterans suffering tinnitus or hearing loss due to service-related injuries are eligible for VA disability compensation.
Veterans suffering from vision problems due to their age or exposure to intense explosions are eligible for VA benefits via the Vision Center of Excellence. If they are not congenital, veterans with visual impairments can apply for disability benefits, including blurry vision, vision loss, reading problems, light sensitivity, diabetic retinopathy, stroke, and cataracts. A licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist must examine your disability before applying for disability payments.
Veterans And Mental Health Issues
Some war wounds go beyond the obvious and leave permanent marks on the mind. Many veterans suffer from mental health illnesses, including depression and anxiety, because of traumatic brain injuries and physical ailments. Military sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder can also affect service members. Once discharged, suicide also becomes a high-risk concern for their safety.
Post Trauma Stress Disorder
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder face severe problems in their daily lives after discharge. But many of them can’t get the help they require as veterans, and those close to them are unaware of the symptoms or where they can turn for help. Because PTSD affects mental health and often goes unnoticed, it can be difficult for health practitioners and others to determine its severity. A common misconception about PTSD in veterans is that it mainly affects war veterans or those exposed to violence.
Even individuals aware of the long-term effects of PTSD among veterans may not be aware of its many symptoms. Hence, mental health issues are also known as “invisible injuries.”
PTSD can influence other conditions such as chronic pain, acute cholesterol, heart diseases, gastrointestinal issues, blood pressure, IBS, and acid reflux.
Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual trauma (MST) results from a physical assault of a sexual nature or sexual harassment that occurred while in service. Manifestations of MST include substance abuse, difficulty focusing, emotional desensitization, and sleep disorders, among others. According to the VA data, while more women than males report MST, there are numerous reports of both genders experiencing MST.
Resources for Mental Distress
Trauma-induced mental diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues can have life-threatening implications. Veterans should never be left to fend for themselves after making such selfless sacrifices. Veterans in need of assistance, or those who know a veteran in need, can reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line, which offers free and confidential crisis counseling services 24 hours a day, seven days a week through text message or phone call.
Additionally, the VA provides disability compensation for PTSD. VA-approved psychiatrists or psychologists must confirm the link between the veteran’s service and their PTSD diagnosis.
Veterans And Traumatic Brain Injury
Veterans who have been hit, knocked, or jolted in the head while serving may suffer from traumatic brain injury. IED blasts have caused the most traumatic brain injuries in the military. Many Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans exposed to IEDs have suffered TBI.
The VA believes that brain injuries caused 22% of all combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Headaches, dizziness, difficulty walking, weariness, and irritability are common signs of TBI. However, the degree of the damage might vary case by case.
Using CT scans and information gleaned from patients who have suffered a TBI, doctors may determine the extent of the damage and the severity of your symptoms. Speech, cognitive, and physical impairments may all improve with treatment for TBI. Healthcare providers can also prescribe medications for anxiety and headaches.
VA Benefits For Veterans With TBI
According to the severity of their injuries, veterans with TBI may be eligible for a disability rating of 100 percent.
Veterans And Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is a problem that affects many veterans. Most at risk are military personnel who have served in more than one location and have suffered injuries in battle on at least one of those occasions.
Alcohol and tobacco use disorder is the most common kind of SUD. Opioid abuse, on the other hand, is rising.
VA physicians encounter around one in ten Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with alcohol or drug abuse issues. According to the VA, veterans with PTSD are more likely to develop SUDs.
Veterans may get care at one of the many VA medical facilities located around the nation. One option is to join groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
SUD therapy may involve medication-assisted treatment and behavioral treatments like motivational interviewing. As a result of behavioral treatment, a veteran can learn to recognize and suppress the urges contributing to drug abuse.
VA Services For Substance Abuse
Veterans in need of addiction treatment can choose from a wide range of options provided by the VA. Speak with your VA healthcare professional to determine which program best suits your needs.
Additionally, you can also opt for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as they assist anyone suffering from mental health or substance use issues. You’ll be able to get in touch with local treatment clinics, support groups, and other community organizations by calling their helpline.
Veterans who suffered service-related illnesses or injuries or their already existing illness or disability worsened during their service can get disability benefits or compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Disabled veterans who have served in the military can apply for disability compensation. VA disability ratings are given to veterans based on medical reports, VA claim tests, and other federal agency information.
Furthermore, Veterans who want to file for disability or compensation claims can get help from service officers. The non-profit VFW is dedicated to training service officers certified by the VA and can help veterans apply for benefits.