166434 Plight of the Iraq War veterans: Vietnam all over again!

Monday, November 5, 2007: 5:40 PM

James A. Thur, MSW, MPH , Executive Director, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, Fairfax, VA
Many veterans of the Vietnam War returned home only to encounter an inadequate and poorly coordinated system of health care. Unfortunately, veterans of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan are experiencing the very same set of issues. With about 30 percent of veterans suffering from mental health problems such as PTSD, depression, TBI, substance abuse and sexual trauma, there is a growing need for treatment. A recent study has also raised the possibility that up to 100,000 veterans of the First Gulf War may have been exposed to harmful levels of sarin nerve gas. These demands are in addition to the older veterans who will require long term care for a variety of disorders including dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are not adequately funded nor equipped to meet this demand. In addition, many veterans will experience mental disorders but never be able to establish eligibility for veteran's benefits. Thus, health care providers outside of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs will increasingly be expected to either serve veterans through Tricare or simply absorb the cost of providing treatment. The combination of the needs of younger and older veterans and the lack of a full continuum of veterans' services amounts to a perfect storm that will only further overwhelm our nation's system of health care unless it is promptly addressed.

Learning Objectives:
To become familiar with the type and prevalence of mental disorders among veterans from various eras. To understand the current and future impact of these disorders on the nationís health care system. To appreciate the urgency of fully addressing this issue.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.