An increased emphasis has been placed on veterans’ health issues because of the large number of participants in the past couple of campaigns. A recent study has been released that transpired from 2007 to 2010 regarding veterans and non-veterans aged 25 to 64. There are 12 million male veterans in the United States in that age range, which represented about 15 percent of the male population. Male veterans under age 24 and female veterans were excluded due to the small sample size.
There were several areas studied. First, in answer to whether the participant felt his health was fair or poor, 16 percent of the veterans vs. 10 percent of the non-veterans answered in the affirmative. More than 20 percent of the veterans reported having two or more chronic conditions as opposed to 10 percent of the non-veterans. Interestingly, 4 percent of the veterans reported serious psychological distress, which was barely higher than the non-veterans. Eighteen percent of the veterans reported work limitations compared with 10 percent for the non-veterans. And finally, nearly 90 percent of the veterans had health insurance while less than 80 percent of the general population had coverage.
Summarizing the study, it appears that the effects of military service on health may appear later in life. Mental health may be under-reported as it dealt with only the most severe psychological distresses and did not include homeless people or the institutionalized population. It should also be noted that with better insurance there may be a higher number of veterans who sought care and are in the system. Irrespective, about twice as many veterans had health problems compared with the non-veterans.
In a different study conducted by the Veterans Health Administration involving 26,000 veterans, up to 10 percent tested positive for Hepatitis C virus; the general population would have about 1.6 percent infection rate. Of that group, 63 percent were from the Vietnam era, while none of the other wars were represented by more than 5 percent. While HCV infection can be serious, 75 to 80 percent of those infected will never progress to severe liver disease.
So what’s the cause? Forty years ago long lines of soldiers stood waiting to get their vaccinations. They were administered by air-guns, typically one on one side and the other on the other. Since there was a vast amount of fluids being injected into arms that already had an ample supply of blood and fluids, blood would be running down the arms. In between injections, the medic might take an alcohol gauze pad and wipe the needle or he might not. What did happen was that since the pad did not kill Hepatitis C virus — or non-A non-B as it was called early on — in reality the air-gun injection became the most efficient method known to man at spreading the virus. I recall early on in my career that we used air-guns in South Carolina as we vaccinated against swine flu, but that was not nearly as traumatic.
It is recommended that if you received an air-gun vaccination, you should be tested for Hepatitis C. That is the only way you will know for sure.