How to Find Health Information for Veterans

Dana AbbeyDana Abbey, Health Information Literacy Coordinator at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Library gave a most informative presentation entitled “Combating Information Fatigue: Health Information Resources for Veterans,” to our Rocky Mountain SLA chapter. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence you will gain the benefit of the research that Dana has compiled.

Skills and coping mechanisms developed during military service, particularly at war, may be counterproductive or misunderstood in civilian life. Readjustment after returning from war is a major challenge, not just for veterans, but also for their families, friends and caregivers. Looking at the numbers: there are 8 million Vietnam veterans; 6.7 million World War II veterans; 4.3 million Korean conflict veterans; 697,000 Gulf War veterans and 1.4 million Afghanistan/Iraq war veterans.

Military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are surviving wounds in numbers far greater than previous wars. This is largely due to advances in body armor, combat medicine and the rapidity of evacuation. Thus many suffer polytrauma, which is multiple injuries. These severe injuries require sophisticated, comprehensive and often lifelong care. Many injuries are the result of explosives which can cause traumatic brain injury (TBI), blindness, spinal cord injury, burns and damage to limbs causing amputation. TBI can cause attention, memory and language problems, headaches, sleep disturbances and personality changes. A closed TBI injury can be hard to detect, and sometimes goes untreated. PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is common among veterans, many who have survived traumatic events.

Veterans suffer higher rates of diabetes and overweight/obesity than the average population. One third of US veterans suffer from arthritis. One third of US veterans from the Iraq war access mental health services after returning home. The prevalence rate of mental health is higher for Iraq veterans: 19.1% versus 11.3% for Afghanistan veterans and 8.5% from other war locations. Veterans suffering from depression are 7-8x more likely to commit suicide than the general population. That amounts to 22 suicides per day or one every 65 minutes.

Homelessness is another issue among veterans. Poverty and high housing costs contribute, as do the lingering effects of PTSD and TBI which render unstable behavior and substance abuse.  More than 11% of the newly homeless veterans are women. The VA (Veterans Affairs) is making a large effort to prevent homelessness by providing 2 years of free medical care and identifying psychological and substance abuse problems early.

1.3 million veterans have no insurance and with ACA (Affordable Care Act) about 50% will qualify for Medicaid coverage. The VA encourages veterans to examine their eligibility for VA health benefits using its Health Benefits Explorer.

Dana shared the robust CU Health Sciences Library resource guide she developed (and updates) for veterans and their families looking for support. Following are some of the categories of data provided in the resources guide:

Limb loss and prosthetics; Mental health services and resources; Spinal cord injury and disease; Traumatic brain injury; MedlinePlus health topics; General military health; Health resources; Demographic group resources; Insurance and benefits; and Support groups and organizations.

There are links to government websites, white papers and relevant books including:

There are numerous libraries across North America which have compiled on-line resources to help veterans and their families find support, as well as personal support for physical, mental and emotional issues incurred from deployment in wars. Don’t forget to email or telephone your friendly librarian if you need help navigating through this maize of information. CU Health Sciences Library can be reached at AskHSL@lists.ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2152.

BTW, here is a great PTSD blog, which I became aware of since writing this blog.

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