As a US Air Force Civil Air Patrol cadet, I periodically volunteer at veteran events. Recently, I became aware that New York has the fifth-largest veteran population in the US (840,000+ veterans), of which 7% are women at 50% are over age 65, and the majority of veterans in New York prefer to receive their health care from outside of the VA.
When researching this issue further, I learned that as our veterans are a vulnerable and growing population, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health’s Board on Population Health and Public Health is now focusing on several efforts to promote health equity for our military members and our veterans who often experience chronic trauma from their service as well as socioeconomic disadvantages post-deployment that influence their physical and mental well-being – conditions resulting in healthcare disparities.
Several factors contribute to veterans’ poor health and mortality, including higher rates of suicide, homelessness, and mental health issues. The VA recently examined suicide rates among VA-enrolled veterans from all states (in 2014) and found VA-enrolled veterans account for approximately 18% of suicide deaths among US adults, with higher suicide risk noted among younger veterans (57% higher than rate among active-duty military personnel). Likewise, mental illnesses, including PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and sexual trauma, are more prevalent among the veteran population.
Per the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (2013), disparities related to access to and use of healthcare and prevalence of chronic diseases are also present in the veteran population. A review of studies examining racial and ethnic health care disparities in the VA found that relative to white veterans, African American veterans experience lower levels of arthritis and cardiovascular disease management, lower levels of surgery related to cancer and cardiovascular disease, and lower quality of diabetes-related care. Similarly, veteran homelessness is a staggering issue affecting veteran health.
NYS Health-produced snapshot, see New York State Health Foundation at nyshealthfoundation.org.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on Community-Based Solutions to Promote Health Equity in the United States; Baciu A, Negussie Y, Geller A, Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2017 Jan 11. 2, The State of Health Disparities in the United States. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.