Health is the Main Concern of Newly Separated Veterans
Every year more than 200,000 U.S. service members transition out of military service, adding to the more than 19 million Veterans within the U.S. population. This period can be a critical time during which prevention and early intervention efforts should be targeted to at-risk Veterans to reduce their vulnerability to the types of chronic readjustment challenges experienced by some Veterans. More than 40,000 organizations provide programs, services, and supports to assist Veterans with the military-to-civilian transition; however, it is not known whether these programs address their most pressing needs. This large prospective cohort study is the first in-depth investigation of U.S. Veterans' health and well-being as they leave military service. Investigators identified a national sample of nearly 47,000 Veterans from a roster of all separating U.S. service members in the fall of 2016. Veterans were asked to complete a survey at 3 months post-separation and again 6 months later. With responses from 9,566 Veterans, study investigators assessed Veterans' status, functioning, and satisfaction with their health, work, and social relationships. Non-response weights were applied to enhance the representativeness of findings to the Veteran population, and subgroup analyses were conducted to identify unique concerns for particular Veteran subgroups.
- Health concerns were the most salient for newly separated Veterans, with many reporting that they had chronic physical (53%) or mental (33%) health conditions – and that they were less satisfied with their health than either their work or social relationships.
- Chronic pain, sleep problems, anxiety, and depression were most commonly reported by Veterans. Men were more likely to report a hearing condition, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, while women were more likely to report anxiety and depression at both survey timepoints.
- Compared with officers, enlisted personnel reported consistently poorer health, vocational, and social outcomes, and deployed Veterans reported poorer health than non-deployed Veterans.
- Veterans’ work functioning declined in the first year after leaving military service.
- Findings suggest several important directions for future prevention and early intervention efforts (i.e., health concerns such as chronic pain, sleep, and anxiety), which, if implemented, have the potential to put Veterans on the path to more successful and fulfilling post-military lives.
- This study had a low response rate at 23% and Veterans with functional limitations may have been less likely to participate.
This study was partly funded by HSR&D. Dr. Vogt is part of VA’s National Center for PTSD and HSR&D’s Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research (CHOIR).
Vogt D, Tyrell F, Bramande E, et al. U.S. Military Veterans' Health and Well-being in the First Year after Service. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. December 28, 2019; Epub ahead of print.