This Article was kindly written by US Navy Veteran Doug Karr
With the focus on returning veterans in the news, many soldiers are starting to evaluate their health care needs and areas where their health might be affected by events that occurred while they were serving.
One of the areas of gravest concern is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With a better understanding of the impact combat and the activities associated with combat has on mental health, there has been a greater acceptance of the need for evaluation of PTSD symptoms and treatment for mental health issues.
Even soldiers who have not served recently, but have been home for many years can feel the effects of PTSD and combat events. According to American Psychological Association some of the major symptoms of PTSD include:
• Easy startle response
• Difficult relationships
• Avoidance of activities that remind you of combat events
• Isolating behaviours
Treatment for post traumatic stress disorder is not easy. Today’s Veterans Affairs medical services will provide you with counselling and psychiatric support to help you manage your symptoms. They may also provide you with a support group to talk to other veterans about your experiences.
(UK veterans can get in touch with Combat Stress for help and advice with service related mental health problem. You can also message Veterans for Peace UK for friendly support.) – Ed
Hazardous Materials Exposure
Another area of concern for many veterans that impacts their health is exposure to hazardous materials. Asbestos is a prime example of hazardous materials exposure that can have a major impact decades after you have been exposed. Asbestos cancer, or mesothelioma is a cancer that impacts the tissues in the lower abdomen.
Other types of hazardous materials include Agent Orange and other types of chemicals that were used in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report being exposed to multiple types of chemicals due to garbage burns in trash pits.
Unfortunately, in many cases, it takes years for the Veterans Administration to acknowledge health problems that may arise from hazardous materials exposure. Repeated studies are usually required, along with large amounts of evidence that veterans are experiencing health related problems that can be directly attributed to their activities as a solider.
Common symptoms for many veterans who have been exposed to hazardous chemicals in Iraq and Afghanistan include respiratory and sinus problems, such as difficulty breathing, wheezing and coughing. Additionally, they can be prone to serious repeated episodes of bronchitis, headaches and generalized malaise.
Veterans can often feel the effects of their service years on their health long after they have completed their tour of duty. Hazardous chemical exposure and asbestos exposure are only two of the hazards that veterans can feel the long-term effects from. In addition to physical symptoms, emotional and mental health issues can emerge after a long period of time.
(For any UK-based veteran your first RV should be your GP, make sure that he/she acknowledges that you are a veteran and therefore should receive priority treatment.) – Ed