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Oct 04, 2011
Categories: Advice from Members
Health Topics

Some of Today’s Top Veteran Health Concerns by Douglas Karr, USN Veteran

Veterans are faced with a myriad of health concerns, not only when they return home from service, but also as they age. Older veterans are faced with dealing with injuries that may not have been an issue when they were younger, but have become a problem as their bodies age and trauma from injuries becomes exacerbated. Additionally, exposure to chemicals such as dangerous herbicides and other hazardous materials can result in long-term health issues.

Accumulated Trauma

According to WebMd.com, recent research into head and brain injury indicates that while some injuries may appear to be mild, over the course of time, their impact on brain function becomes more debilitating. Repeated brain injuries in the form of concussions that result from being close to high impact bombs and artillery fire can result in dementia, balance problems and other forms of brain dysfunction.

Other types of trauma that soldiers face include damage to nerves in the arms and legs from activities such as parachute jumping or strong body impact injuries. When young and vital, soldiers frequently shake off the initial injury. However, as they age, they begin to notice that they are losing feeling in their arms, hand, legs and feet because of nerve injuries that occurred in service to their country.

Hazardous Materials Exposure

Another health concern for many veterans is long-term effects of hazardous materials exposure. During the Vietnam era, many soldiers were exposed to the dangerous herbicide Agent Orange. This herbicide was used extensively in combat zones to clear foliage and growth in the dense tropical environment of Vietnam. For many years, the Veterans Administration denied that soliders experienced negative effects from being exposed to this chemical. It is only in fairly recent years that there has been acknowledgment of the health problems that have arisen as a result of use of this chemical.

Another hazardous material that has been used frequently in the past is asbestos. Veterans who worked in shipyards or other environments for the Navy and other branches of the armed forces may discover that they have mesothelioma or asbestos cancer diagnosed when they get older. This is a cancer that affects the abdominal lining of the body. While many people are aware of the dangers of asbestos in the home construction industry, they are not aware of the significant use of this material in the defense industry.

Veterans are entitled to receive benefits for injuries that are the result of activities they engaged in during their service to their country. Many veterans learn that they must fight diligently to be awarded medical services for treatment of their injuries. If you are a veteran and begin to experience health issues, consider that they may be the result of injuries you received many years ago while you were a soldier.  

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