Since September 11, 2001, 2.4 million military personnel have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, roughly 1.44 million have separated from the military and approximately 772,000 of these veterans have used VA health care. Combat deployments impact the physical, psychological, and social health of veterans. Given that many veterans are receiving care from non-VA providers, it is important that all community health care workers be familiar with the unique health care needs of this patient population, which include injuries associated with blast exposures (including mild traumatic brain injury), as well as a variety of mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Other important health concerns are chronic musculoskeletal pain, medically unexplained symptoms, sequelae of environmental exposures, depression, suicide, substance abuse, sleep disturbances, and impairments in family, occupational and social functioning. Elevated rates of hypertension and tobacco use remind us that deployment may result not only in immediate impacts on health, but also increase risk for chronic disease, contributing to a growing public health burden. This paper provides a comprehensive review of these health concerns and offers practical management guidelines for primary care providers. In light of relationships between physical, psychological and psychosocial concerns in this population, we recommend an interdisciplinary approach to care directed toward mitigating the long-term health impacts of combat.
KEY WORDS: combat, post-deployment, OEF/OIF, veteran, Iraq, Afghanistan