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Study shows persistent reintegration difficulties among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

In a study of 1,292 Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans, investigators from the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and the University of Minnesota found that about half reported difficulties reintegrating into society, even after nearly six years, on average, after returning from their deployments.

Besides finding that 54 percent of the Veterans in the study had at least a little difficulty reintegrating into society, the researchers also compared Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who used VA health care with those who did not. They learned that those who used VA health care were more likely to have probable TBI and PTSD. They were also more likely to report higher levels of psychological distress, physical symptoms, and reintegration difficulty compared with Veterans who had not used the VA system.

Whether Veterans used VA for care was not related to indicators of minority or socioeconomic status, or employment levels. However, the branch of service in which they served, the amount of time that had passed since discharge, having a service-connected mental or physical health condition, and the likelihood that they had incurred a TBI were all significantly associated with the use of VA care. U.S. Army Veterans were most likely to use VA for care, compared with other branches of service.

Although many of the problems the researchers looked at were more prevalent in VA users, those who did not use VA for care also reported many difficulties. According to the research team, it is probable that more than 25 percent of non-users had PTSD, for example. Binge drinking was also prevalent among non-VA users who reported reintegration difficulties, as it was among VA users reporting such difficulties. (Administration and Policy in Mental Health, June 11, 2014, epub ahead of print)

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