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SHP 08-154 – HSR&D Study

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SHP 08-154
Aging OEF/OIF Veterans: Assessing the Needs of an Emerging Cohort
Susan L. Zickmund PhD
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System University Drive Division, Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh, PA
Funding Period: May 2008 - September 2008

BACKGROUND/RATIONALE:
The VA is committed to meeting the needs of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans. One cohort that requires special attention is the OEF/OIF veterans who are 50 years of age and older. This group, largely composed of National Guard and reservists, accounts for about 10% of the deployed forces, a significantly higher fraction than that seen in recent conflicts. Reports indicate that National Guard and reservists have experienced more active combat than other troops, which may contribute to higher rates of PTSD and suicide. In addition, OEF/OIF veterans 50 years of age and older are more likely to experience physical limitations or to suffer from comorbidities that may affect physical and/or mental health during and after deployment.

OBJECTIVE(S):
As no systematic studies of aging OEF/OIF veterans currently exist, we propose to conduct a small pilot study, in support of a VA HSR&D Merit Review application, that examines the "black box" surrounding the needs of the aging post-deployment veterans.

METHODS:
Using in-depth interview techniques conducted with OEF/OIF veterans 50 years of age and older, the specific aims of this pilot project are to: (1) Determine the perceived physical and mental problems experienced during and after deployment; (2) Determine any perceived differences the veterans have in how they compare their experiences and needs with those of younger OEF/OIF veterans; and (3) Determine whether and how the VA healthcare services meet the needs of the older OEF/OIF veterans with a focus on facilitators and barriers to use within the VA system.

FINDINGS/RESULTS:
While anecdotal and based on provider insights, we have identified several key areas of need in this unique veteran population, as well as areas of strength that may buffer them from the difficulties of post-deployment. Findings will be elaborated upon in our final report.

IMPACT:
The aging OEF/OIF veterans present an unprecedented challenge to the VA healthcare system. With the aging reservists and the new practice of employing the National Guard in extended tours of duty, the VA will face for the first time an emerging cohort of veterans who require post-deployment services, as well as close attention to physical comorbid health conditions that come with advancing age. Given that no information exists on the experiences of this group, the proposed pilot study will be the first to characterize the needs of the aging returning veteran.

PUBLICATIONS:
None at this time.


DRA: Military and Environmental Exposures, Aging, Older Veterans' Health and Care, Health Systems
DRE: Epidemiology, Treatment - Observational
Keywords: Access, Deployment Related
MeSH Terms: none

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