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VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
 

Noteworthy Publications

Who uses VA health care after deployment?


Iowa Army National Guard soldiers take part in a training exercise at Fort Dix, N.J., in 2008.
Iowa Army National Guard soldiers take part in a training exercise at Fort Dix, N.J., in 2008. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika/USA)

Iowa Army National Guard soldiers take part in a training exercise at Fort Dix, N.J., in 2008. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika/USA)

Many service members return from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan with serious injuries, including TBIs. Others have ongoing psychological health problems, including PTSD, depression, and substance abuse problems.

Researchers with the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, the Defense Health Agency, and Brandeis University looked at the rates of use of the VA health care system and the factors that might predict whether these Veterans use the system in the 365 days following their demobilization from a deployment. Their sample included 125,434 Army National Guard and 48,423 Army Reserve members.

Of those who demobilized during the period from 2008 to 2011, about 57 percent of Army National Guard members and 46 percent of reservists used VA health care within 12 months of their demobilization. The research team plans to further track this group of Veterans over their second and third year post-deployment to see if some members sign up after the first year, and, if so, why they may have waited.

The study found that women were more likely than men to enroll and engage in VA health care, and that Veterans who had used VA care in the past were more likely to continue to do so. They also learned that junior enlisted service members were more likely than other ranks to link to VA care, and that African-Americans and Hispanics were somewhat more likely than non-Hispanic Caucasians to enroll in VA. However, American Indian and Alaskan natives had 15 percent lower odds of enrollment compared to non-Hispanic Caucasians.

Finally, the team also found that those who lived in the West were substantially less likely to use VA health care than those from the Midwest or the South. They hope the study will provide a foundation for further research, and will be used to develop quality-improvement strategies aimed at reducing disparities and maximizing Veterans' access to care. (Military Medicine, October 2014)


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