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1.  Pregnancy and Mental Health Among Women Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan 
Journal of Women's Health  2010;19(12):2159-2166.
Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) may experience significant stress during military service that can have lingering effects. Little is known about mental health problems or treatment among pregnant OEF/OIF women veterans. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of mental health problems among veterans who received pregnancy-related care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) system.
Data from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) deployment roster of military discharges from October 1, 2001, through April 30, 2008, were used to assemble an administrative cohort of female OEF/OIF veterans enrolled in care at the VHA (n = 43,078). Pregnancy and mental health conditions were quantified according to ICD-9-CM codes and specifications. Mental healthcare use and prenatal care were assessed by analyzing VHA stop codes.
During the study period, 2966 (7%) women received at least one episode of pregnancy-related care, and 32% of veterans with a pregnancy and 21% without a pregnancy received one or more mental health diagnoses (p < 0.0001). Veterans with a pregnancy were twice as likely to have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia as those without a pregnancy.
Women OEF/OIF veterans commonly experience mental health problems after military service. The burden of mental health conditions is higher among women with an identified instance of pregnancy than among those without. Because women do not receive pregnancy care at the VHA, however, little is known about ongoing concomitant prenatal and mental healthcare or about pregnancy outcomes among these women veterans.
PMCID: PMC3052271  PMID: 21039234
2.  Demographic, Military, and Health Characteristics of VA Health Care Users and Nonusers Who Served in or During Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2009-2011 
Public Health Reports  2016;131(6):839-843.
An estimated 60% of all Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans who have left the military had used the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for health care services as of March 31, 2015. What is not known, however, are the differences in demographic, military, and health characteristics between OEF/OIF veterans who use the VA for health care and OEF/OIF veterans who do not. We used data from the 2009-2011 National Health Study for a New Generation of US Veterans to explore these differences. We found that VA health care users were more likely than non-VA health care users to be non-Hispanic black, to be unmarried, to have served on active duty and in the army, to have been deployed to OEF/OIF, and to have an annual income less than $35 000. The prevalence of 21 chronic medical conditions was higher among VA health care users than among non-VA health care users. OEF/OIF veterans using the VA for health care differ from nonusers with respect to demographic, military, and health characteristics. These data may be useful for developing programs and policies to address observed health disparities and achieve maximum benefit for the VA beneficiary population.
PMCID: PMC5230837  PMID: 28123232
OEF/OIF; veterans; Department of Veterans Affairs
3.  A retrospective cohort study of U.S. service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq: is physical health worsening over time? 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1124.
High rates of mental health disorders have been reported in veterans returning from deployment to Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom: OEF) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom: OIF); however, less is known about physical health functioning and its temporal course post-deployment. Therefore, our goal is to study physical health functioning in OEF/OIF veterans after deployment.
We analyzed self-reported physical health functioning as physical component summary (PCS) scores on the Veterans version of the Short Form 36 health survey in 679 OEF/OIF veterans clinically evaluated at a post-deployment health clinic. Veterans were stratified into four groups based on time post-deployment: (1Yr) 0 – 365 days; (2Yr) 366 – 730 days; (3Yr) 731 – 1095 days; and (4Yr+) > 1095 days. To assess the possibility that our effect was specific to a treatment-seeking sample, we also analyzed PCS scores from a separate military community sample of 768 OEF/OIF veterans evaluated pre-deployment and up to one-year post-deployment.
In veterans evaluated at our clinic, we observed significantly lower PCS scores as time post-deployment increased (p = 0.018) after adjusting for probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We similarly observed in our community sample that PCS scores were lower both immediately after and one year after return from deployment (p < 0.001) relative to pre-deployment PCS. Further, PCS scores obtained 1-year post-deployment were significantly lower than scores obtained immediately post-deployment (p = 0.02).
In our clinical sample, the longer the duration between return from deployment and their visit to our clinic, the worse the Veteran’s physical health even after adjusting for PTSD. Additionally, a decline is also present in a military community sample of OEF/OIF veterans. These data suggest that, as time since deployment length increases, physical health may deteriorate for some veterans.
PMCID: PMC3543837  PMID: 23272950
Veterans; Military personnel; Veterans health; Quality of life; Operation enduring freedom; Operation iraqi freedom; Health surveys
4.  Research on PTSD prevalence in OEF/OIF Veterans: expanding investigation of demographic variables 
European Journal of Psychotraumatology  2015;6:10.3402/ejpt.v6.27322.
A series of recent articles has reported on well-designed studies examining base rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) screenings within the Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan conflict)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq conflict) (OEF/OIF) military population. Although these studies have a number of strengths, this line of research points out several key areas in need of further examination.
Many OEF/OIF Veterans do not use available Veterans Affairs (VA) services, especially mental health care. This highlights the need to understand the differences between those who use and do not use the VA, especially as research with pre-OEF/OIF Veterans suggests that these two groups differ in significant ways. The high rates of PTSD-related concerns in non-VA users also points to a need to understand whether—and where—Veterans are seeking care outside the VA and the accessibility of evidence-based, trauma-focused treatments in the community and private sectors. Careful examination of relationship status is also paramount as little research has examined relationship status or other relationship context issues. Social support, especially from a spouse, can buffer the development of PTSD; however, relationship discord has the potential to greatly exacerbate PTSD symptomatology. Furthermore, given the additional risk factors for sexual minority Veterans to be exposed to trauma, the 2011 repeal of the US Military “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy, and the emergence of the VA as likely the largest health care provider for sexual minority Veterans, it will be critically important to study the trauma and mental health experiences of this group.
Studies that examine prevalence rates of PTSD in the returning cohort contribute significantly to our understanding of the US OEF/OIF military population. Further study of PTSD in relation to demographic variables such as VA and non-VA use, relationship status, and sexual orientation will provide rich data that will enhance our ability to develop policy and practice to provide the best care to this population.
PMCID: PMC4430556  PMID: 25971312
PTSD; military Veteran; OEF/OIF; prevalence rates; demographics; VA service use; marital status; relationships; Don't Ask, Don't Tell; LGBT
5.  Sexual Victimization, Health Status, and VA Healthcare Utilization Among Lesbian and Bisexual OEF/OIF Veterans 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2013;28(Suppl 2):604-608.
Many lesbian and bisexual (LB) women veterans may have been targets of victimization in the military based on their gender and presumed sexual orientation, and yet little is known regarding the health or mental health of LB veterans, nor the degree to which they feel comfortable receiving care in the VA.
The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of mental health and gender-specific conditions, VA healthcare satisfaction and trauma exposure among LB veterans receiving VA care compared with heterosexually-identified women veterans receiving.
Prospective cohort study of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) women veterans at two large VA facilities.
Three hundred and sixty five women veterans that completed a baseline survey. Thirty-five veterans (9.6 %) identified as gay or lesbian (4.7 %), or bisexual (4.9 %).
Main Measures
Measures included sexual orientation, military sexual trauma, mental and gender-specific health diagnoses, and VA healthcare utilization and satisfaction.
Key Results
LB OEF/OIF veterans were significantly more likely to have experienced both military and childhood sexual trauma than heterosexual women (MST: 31 % vs. 13 %, p < .001; childhood sexual trauma: 60 % vs. 36 %, p = .01), to be hazardous drinkers (32 % vs. 16 %, p = .03) and rate their current mental health as worse than before deployment (35 % vs. 16 %, p < .001).
Many LB veterans have experienced sexual victimization, both within the military and as children, and struggle with substance abuse and poor mental health. Health care providers working with female Veterans should be aware of high rates of military sexual trauma and childhood abuse and refer women to appropriate VA treatment and support groups for sequelae of these experiences. Future research should focus on expanding this study to include a larger and more diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender veterans receiving care at VA facilities across the country.
PMCID: PMC3695265  PMID: 23807072
lesbian; health services research; Veterans; women
6.  Gender Differences in Rates of Depression, PTSD, Pain, Obesity, and Military Sexual Trauma Among Connecticut War Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan 
Journal of Women's Health  2010;19(2):267-271.
The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to an increasing number of female veterans seeking medical and mental healthcare in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system. To better understand gender differences in healthcare needs among recently returned veterans, we examined the prevalence of positive screenings for depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST), obesity, and chronic pain among female and male veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) receiving care at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.
We performed a retrospective, cross-sectional data analysis of OEF/OIF veterans at VA Connecticut who received services in either Primary Care or the Women's Health Clinic between 2001 and 2006.
In this study, 1129 electronic medical records (1032 men, 197 women) were examined. Female veterans were more likely to screen positive for MST (14% vs. 1%, p < 0.001) and depression (48% vs. 39%, p = 0.01) and less likely to screen positive for PTSD (21% vs. 33%, p = 0.002). There was no significant gender difference in clinically significant pain scores. Men were more likely than women to have body mass index (BMI) >30 kg/m2 (21% vs. 13%, p = 0.008).
These results suggest that important gender differences exist in the prevalence of positive screenings for MST, depression, obesity, and PTSD. As the VA continues to review and improve its services for women veterans, clinicians, researchers, and senior leaders should consider innovative ways to ensure that female veterans receive the health services they need within the VA system.
PMCID: PMC3052274  PMID: 20109115
7.  Web-Based Intervention for Returning Veterans with Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Risky Alcohol Use 
A substantial number of military personnel who have served in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom; OIF) and Afghanistan (Operating Enduring Freedom; OEF) develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in response to their military experiences and many of these same individuals will drink in a risky or problematic manner following deployment. If left untreated, PTSD symptoms and alcohol problems can become chronic and have a significant, negative impact on the lives of veterans, their families and communities. Further, OIF and OEF service members are often reluctant to seek treatment for mental health symptoms or alcohol problems secondary to stigma. In order to reach this population it is essential that new strategies and venues for delivering evidence-based care are explored. Web-based interventions are uniquely suited to this cohort of veterans in that they have the potential to reach a significant number of veterans who commonly use the Web and who might not otherwise receive care. This article will review the prevalence of PTSD and alcohol problems among OIF and OEF veterans, common barriers they experience with accessing care in traditional mental health settings, and what is known about the effectiveness of Web-based approaches for PTSD and alcohol problems. It also describes the components of a new Web-based intervention, developed by the authors, that uses motivational enhancement and cognitive-behavioral strategies to intervene with returning veterans who report PTSD symptoms and problem drinking. Recommendations for future directions in working with returning veterans with PTSD and alcohol problems will be offered.
PMCID: PMC4219624  PMID: 25378713
Veterans; PTSD; Alcohol; Web intervention
8.  A Needs Assessment of New York State Veterans 
Rand Health Quarterly  2011;1(1):14.
Mental health disorders and other types of impairments resulting from deployment experiences are beginning to emerge, but fundamental gaps remain in our knowledge about the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the services available to meet those needs, and the experiences of veterans who have tried to use these services. This article highlights the findings of a study focused directly on the veterans living in New York state. The study included veterans who currently use U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services as well as those who do not; and it looked at needs across a broad range of domains. The authors collected information and advice from a series of qualitative interviews with veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) residing in New York, as well as their family members. In addition, they conducted a quantitative assessment of the needs of veterans and their spouses from a sample that is broadly representative of OEF/OIF veterans in New York state. Finally, they conducted a review the services currently available in New York state for veterans. The study found substantially elevated rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression among veterans. It also found that both VA and non-VA services are critically important for addressing veterans' needs, and that the health care systems that serve veterans are extremely complicated. Addressing veterans' mental health needs will require a multipronged approach: reducing barriers to seeking treatment; improving the sustainment of, or adherence to, treatment; and improving the quality of the services being delivered. Finally, veterans have other serious needs besides mental health care and would benefit from a broad range of services.
PMCID: PMC4945221  PMID: 28083170
9.  CAM Use in Recently-returned OEF/OIF/OND US Veterans: Demographic and Psychosocial Predictors 
Because the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasing among veterans, understanding more about the characteristics of veterans who use CAM is increasingly important. Studies reporting on predictors of use almost always discuss CAM in the aggregate, yet each CAM modality represents a unique approach to healthcare, and each may have different correlates as well as different effectiveness. Very little information is available about veterans' use of each distinct modality, and about psychosocial correlates of various forms of CAM use.
We analyzed data from wave 1 of the Survey of the Experiences of Returning Veterans (SERV) Study, which included 729 veterans returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation New Dawn (OND).
Data were collected by telephone interviews.
Main measures
We examined a range of potentially important correlates of CAM use, including demographics, military experiences, and current mental and physical health.
Each predictor related to a unique constellation of CAM modalities; not one of the predictors examined was associated with more than half of the 12 modalities. For example, women were more likely to use acupuncture, massage, yoga, meditation and spiritual healing, and age related only to greater use of homeopathy, while deployment injuries related positively to use of chiropractic, nutrition and meditation.
Results suggest that in order to understand CAM use, CAM modalities should be considered unique and separate practices. This greater understanding should be useful for future health service provision for veterans.
PMCID: PMC5074081  PMID: 27670870
Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Military; Veterans
10.  Health Risk Behaviors of Afghanistan and Iraq War Veterans Attending College 
The population military veterans attending college is rapidly growing as veterans return from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF). We sought to describe patterns of student veterans’ health-related behaviors and how they might differ from their non-veteran peers.
We analyzed data from the 2008 Boynton College Student Health Survey (CSHS).
CSHS participants completed an anonymous online survey.
The CSHS sampled students (n=8,651) attending public, private, two-, and four-year postsecondary educational institutions in Minnesota.
The CSHS included items on substance use (including alcohol and tobacco), safety, nutrition, and physical activity.
We described demographics of OEF/OIF veteran, non-OEF/OIF veteran, and non-veteran students and used poisson regression to compute adjusted relative risks (ARR) with 95% confidence intervals to characterize associations between veteran status and health behaviors.
After controlling for demographics, veteran students reported more safety-, tobacco-, and alcohol-related risk behaviors compared to non-veteran students. For instance, compared to the non-veteran reference group, the ARR for past year smokeless tobacco use and physical fighting among for OEF/OIF veterans was 1.76 [CI: 1.31–2.35] and 1.48 [CI: 1.22–1.79] respectively. Veteran and non-veteran students display similar weight-related behaviors, though OEF/OIF veteran students were more likely to engage in strengthening exercises.
There are specific health risk behaviors which are particularly relevant for veterans attending postsecondary institutions. As veterans enroll in postsecondary education there is a unique window of opportunity for health promotion in this population.
PMCID: PMC3579508  PMID: 22040391
Veterans; Young Adult; Tobacco; Substance Abuse; Obesity; Safety
11.  Women Veterans’ Healthcare Delivery Preferences and Use by Military Service Era: Findings from the National Survey of Women Veterans 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2013;28(Suppl 2):571-576.
The number of women Veterans (WVs) utilizing the Veterans Health Administration (VA) has doubled over the past decade, heightening the importance of understanding their healthcare delivery preferences and utilization patterns. Other studies have identified healthcare issues and behaviors of WVs in specific military service eras (e.g., Vietnam), but delivery preferences and utilization have not been examined within and across eras on a population basis.
To identify healthcare delivery preferences and healthcare use of WVs by military service era to inform program design and patient-centeredness.
Cross-sectional 2008–2009 survey of a nationally representative sample of 3,611 WVs, weighted to the population.
Healthcare delivery preferences measured as importance of selected healthcare features; types of healthcare services and number of visits used; use of VA or non-VA; all by military service era.
Military service era differences were present in types of healthcare used, with World War II and Korea era WVs using more specialty care, and Vietnam era-to-present WVs using more women’s health and mental health care. Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) WVs made more healthcare visits than WVs of earlier military eras. The greatest healthcare delivery concerns were location convenience for Vietnam and earlier WVs, and cost for Gulf War 1 and OEF/OIF/OND WVs. Co-located gynecology with general healthcare was also rated important by a sizable proportion of WVs from all military service eras.
Our findings point to the importance of ensuring access to specialty services closer to home for WVs, which may require technology-supported care. Younger WVs’ higher mental health care use reinforces the need for integration and coordination of primary care, reproductive health and mental health care.
PMCID: PMC3695266  PMID: 23807067
women Veterans; VA healthcare; health services need; health services utilization; health care preferences
12.  Comparison of outpatient health care utilization among returning women and men Veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq 
The number of women serving in the United States military increased during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), leading to a subsequent surge in new women Veterans seeking health care services from the Veterans Administration (VA). The objective of this study was to examine gender differences among OEF/OIF Veterans in utilization of VA outpatient health care services.
Our retrospective cohort consisted of 1,620 OEF/OIF Veterans (240 women and 1380 men) who enrolled for outpatient healthcare at a single VA facility. We collected demographic data and information on military service and VA utilization from VA electronic medical records. To assess gender differences we used two models: use versus nonuse of services (logistic regression) and intensity of use among users (negative binomial regression).
In our sample, women were more likely to be younger, single, and non-white than men. Women were more likely to utilize outpatient care services (odds ratio [OR] = 1.47, 95% confidence interval [CI]:1.09, 1.98), but once care was initiated, frequency of visits over time (intensity) did not differ by gender (incident rate ratio [IRR] = 1.07; 95% CI: 0.90, 1.27).
Recently discharged OEF/OIF women Veterans were more likely to seek VA health care than men Veterans. But the intensity of use was similar between women and men VA care users. As more women use VA health care, prospective studies exploring gender differences in types of services utilized, health outcomes, and factors associated with satisfaction will be required.
PMCID: PMC2910695  PMID: 20565985
13.  The Boston Assessment of Traumatic Brain Injury–Lifetime (BAT-L) Semistructured Interview: Evidence of Research Utility and Validity 
Report the prevalence of lifetime and military-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans and validate the Boston Assessment of TBI–Lifetime (BAT-L).
The BAT-L is the first validated, postcombat, semistructured clinical interview to characterize head injuries and diagnose TBIs throughout the life span.
Community-dwelling convenience sample of 131 OEF/OIF veterans.
TBI criteria (alteration of mental status, posttraumatic amnesia, and loss of consciousness) were evaluated for all possible TBIs, including a novel evaluation of blast exposure.
Main Measures
BAT-L, Ohio State University TBI Identification Method (OSU-TBI-ID).
About 67% of veterans incurred a TBI in their lifetime. Almost 35% of veterans experienced at least 1 military-related TBI; all were mild in severity, 40% of them were due to blast, 50% were due to some other (ie, blunt) mechanism, and 10% were due to both types of injuries. Predeployment TBIs were frequent (45% of veterans). There was strong correspondence between the BAT-L and the OSU-TBI-ID (Cohen κ = 0.89; Kendall τ-b 0.95). Interrater reliability of the BAT-L was strong (κs >0.80).
The BAT-L is a valid instrument with which to assess TBI across a service member’s lifetime and captures the varied and complex nature of brain injuries across OEF/OIF veterans’ life span.
PMCID: PMC3997066  PMID: 23535389
assessment; blast; OEF/OIF; traumatic brain injury (TBI); veterans
14.  Enhancing entrance into PTSD treatment for post-deployment veterans through collaborative/integrative care 
High rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among post-deployment veterans and the associated long-term consequences highlight the importance of early identification and treatment. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA)’s Primary Care Mental Health Integration (PCMHI) program aims to increase identification and access to care for veterans with mental illness, decrease stigma, improve continuity of care, and the efficiency of healthcare utilization. This project examines PCMHI’s progress towards these goals within the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF/OIF) population. We examined data from consults to the OEF/OIF PTSD clinic for 18 months. PCMHI placed 129 consults and 91 (70.5%) were completed. Veterans referred by PCMHI tended to have increased consult completion in specialty care, higher rates of confirmed PTSD, however, no significant differences in reported PTSD symptoms, or follow-up visits in the OEF/OIF PTSD clinic compared to Veterans referred from the hospital at large. PCMHI potentially preserve resources, increases continuity of care, and increases treatment access for OEF/OIF/OND veterans.
PMCID: PMC3717667  PMID: 24073084
Collaborative care; PTSD; Mental health; PCMHI
15.  A case–control study examining whether neurological deficits and PTSD in combat veterans are related to episodes of mild TBI 
BMJ Open  2012;2(2):e000312.
Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a common injury among military personnel serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The impact of repeated episodes of combat mTBI is unknown.
To evaluate relationships among mTBI, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and neurological deficits (NDs) in US veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
This was a case–control study. From 2091 veterans screened for traumatic brain injury, the authors studied 126 who sustained mTBI with one or more episodes of loss of consciousness (LOC) in combat. Comparison groups: 21 combat veterans who had definite or possible episodes of mTBI without LOC and 21 veterans who sustained mTBI with LOC as civilians.
Among combat veterans with mTBI, 52% had NDs, 66% had PTSD and 50% had PTSD and an ND. Impaired olfaction was the most common ND, found in 65 veterans. The prevalence of an ND or PTSD correlated with the number of mTBI exposures with LOC. The prevalence of an ND or PTSD was >90% for more than five episodes of LOC. Severity of PTSD and impairment of olfaction increased with number of LOC episodes. The prevalence of an ND for the 34 combat veterans with one episode of LOC (4/34=11.8%) was similar to that of the 21 veterans of similar age and educational background who sustained civilian mTBI with one episode of LOC (2/21=9.5%, p-NS).
Impaired olfaction was the most frequently recognised ND. Repeated episodes of combat mTBI were associated with increased likelihood of PTSD and an ND. Combat setting may not increase the likelihood of an ND. Two possible connections between mTBI and PTSD are (1) that circumstances leading to combat mTBI likely involve severe psychological trauma and (2) that altered cerebral functioning following mTBI may increase the likelihood that a traumatic event results in PTSD.
Article summary
Article focus
Case–control study of mTBI associated with LOC among US veterans who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Three study groups: (1) 126 veterans who had mTBI with LOC, (2) 21 OIF/OEF veterans who did not suffer mTBI with LOC and (3) 21 veterans who sustained mTBI with LOC in a civilian setting.
Evaluated NDs including a quantitative test of olfaction, PTSD with severity assessed using the PCL-M instrument and a cognitive function using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test.
Key messages
Olfaction was a sensitive test for neurological injury associated with mTBI with LOC.
More episodes of mTBI with LOC were associated with higher prevalence rates of NDs or of PTSD.
The severity of PTSD and extent of olfactory impairment increased with the number of episodes of LOC; cognitive function performance was inversely related to the number of episodes of LOC.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Case–control study of US combat veterans with mTBI who were assessed for NDs, PTSD and cognitive function.
Subjects and comparison groups had detailed assessments for NDs, and combat veterans were also assessed for PTSD.
The findings should be relevant to other groups of military personnel with combat mTBI.
The neurological examination was not blinded.
The selection of veterans in this study may be biased because veterans who do not have health issues may not seek care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The comparison groups were small.
The findings in veterans with mTBI with LOC may not apply to people with mTBI without LOC.
PMCID: PMC3312078  PMID: 22431700
16.  The Role of Social Support in Exposure Therapy for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans: A Preliminary Investigation 
The lack of social support has consistently been identified as a relevant factor in the development, maintenance, and treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Prospective studies with combat veterans have supported the erosion model of social support in the development of PTSD. This model posits that increased PTSD symptoms lead to diminished social support over time. Additional epidemiological work that has investigated mental health and functional impairment in recently returning Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans has suggested that interpersonal problems coincide with the onset of PTSD. Despite research that suggests OIF/OEF veterans experience high rates of PTSD and associated interpersonal problems, no studies have examined social support in relation to treatment response in this group. The current study examined the role of four theorized functional aspects of social support— emotional/informational support, positive social interactions, affectionate support, and tangible support— on pretreatment PTSD symptom severity and treatment response in a sample of OIF/OEF veterans receiving exposure-based psychotherapy. Findings showed that positive social interactions were negatively correlated with pretreatment symptom severity, and emotional/informational support was positively related to increased treatment response. Together, these findings suggest that specific types of social support may have an important influence on the course of exposure treatment.
PMCID: PMC3712530  PMID: 23869250
PTSD; OEF/OIF; Veterans; social support; exposure therapy
17.  Bilateral Transfemoral/Transtibial Amputations Due to Battle Injuries: A Comparison of Vietnam Veterans with Iraq and Afghanistan Servicemembers 
Multiple limb loss from combat injuries has increased as a proportion of all combat-wounded amputees. Bilateral lower-extremity limb loss is the most common, with bilateral transfemoral amputations being the most common subgroup followed by bilateral amputations consisting of a single transfemoral amputation and a single transtibial amputation (TFTT). With improvements in rehabilitation and prostheses, we believe it is important to ascertain how TFTT amputees from the present conflicts compare to those from the Vietnam War.
We compared self-reported (1) health status, (2) quality of life (QoL), (3) prosthetic use, and (4) function level between TFTT amputees from the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF).
As part of a larger survey, during 2007 to 2008, servicemembers with a diagnosis of amputation associated with battlefield injuries from the Vietnam War and OIF/OEF were identified from the Veterans Affairs and military databases. Participants were asked to respond to a questionnaire to determine their injuries, surgical history, presence of other medical problems, health status, QoL, function, and prosthetic use. We assessed QoL and health status using single-item questions and function using seven categories of physical activity. Thirteen of 298 (4.3%) participants in the Vietnam War group and 11 of 283 (3.8%) in the OIF/OEF group had sustained TFTT amputations. Mean age ± SD at followup was 61 ± 2 years and 28 ± 5 years for the Vietnam War and OIF/OEF groups, respectively.
Excellent, very good, and good self-reported health (85% versus 82%; p = 0.85) and QoL (69% versus 72%; p = 0.85) were similar between the Vietnam War and OIF/OEF groups, respectively. Level of function was higher in the OIF/OEF group, with four of 11 reporting participation in high-impact activities compared to none in the Vietnam War group (p = 0.018).
Participants with TFTT limb loss from both conflicts reported similar scores for QoL and health status, although those from OIF/OEF reported better function and use of prosthetic devices. It is unclear whether the improved function is from age-related changes or improvements in rehabilitation and prosthetics. Some areas of future research might include longitudinal studies of those with limb loss and assessments of physical function of older individuals with limb loss as the demographics shift to where this group of individuals becomes more prominent.
Level of Evidence
Level III, therapeutic study. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
PMCID: PMC4160512  PMID: 24585323
18.  Erosion of the healthy soldier effect in veterans of US military service in Iraq and Afghanistan 
This research explores the healthy soldier effect (HSE) – a lower mortality risk among veterans relative to the general population—in United States (US) veterans deployed in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (OEF/OIF/OND). While a HSE has been affirmed in other OEF/OIF/OND populations, US veterans of OEF/OIF/OND have not been systematically studied.
Using US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administrative data, we identified veterans who (1) had been deployed in support of OEF/OIF/OND between 2002 and 2011 and (2) were enrolled in the VA health care system. We divided the VA population into VA health care utilizers and non-utilizers. We obtained Department of Defense (DOD) administrative data on the OEF/OIF/OND population and obtained VA and DOD mortality data excluding combat deaths from the analyses. Indirect standardization was used to compare VA and DOD cohorts to the US population using total population at risk to compute the Standardized Mortality Ratio (SMR). A directly standardized relative risk (DSRR) was calculated to enable comparisons between cohorts. To compare VA enrollee mortality on military specific characteristics, we used a DOD population standard.
The overall VA SMR of 2.8 (95% Confidence Interval [CI] 2.8-2.9), VA utilizer SMR of 3.2 (95% CI 3.1-3.3), VA non-utilizer SMR of 0.9 (95% CI 0.8-1.1), and DOD SMR of 1.5 (95% CI 1.4-1.5) provide no evidence of a HSE in any cohort relative to the US standard population. Relative to DOD, both the total VA population SMR of 2.1 (95% CI 2.0-2.2) and the SMR for VA utilizers of 2.3 (95% CI 2.3-2.4) indicate mortality twice what would be expected given DOD mortality rates. In contrast, the VA enrollees who had not used clinical services had 40% lower than expected mortality relative to DOD.
No support was found for the HSE among US veterans of OEF/OIF/OND. These findings may be attributable to a number of factors including post-deployment risk-taking behavior, an abbreviated follow up period, and the nature of the OEF/OIF/OND conflict.
PMCID: PMC4367975  PMID: 25798075
Veterans/statistics & numerical data; Mortality; Healthy soldier effect
19.  Feedback from recently returned veterans on an anonymous web-based brief alcohol intervention 
Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) are at increased risk for alcohol misuse, and innovative methods are needed to improve their access to alcohol screening and brief interventions (SBI). This study adapted an electronic SBI (e-SBI) website shown to be efficacious in college students for OEF/OIF veterans and reported findings from interviews with OEF/OIF veterans about their impressions of the e-SBI.
Outpatient veterans of OEF/OIF who drank ≥3 days in the past week were recruited from a US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Deployment Health Clinic waiting room. Veterans privately pretested the anonymous e-SBI then completed individual semistructured audio-recorded interviews. Their responses were analyzed using template analysis to explore domains identified a priori as well as emergent domains.
During interviews, all nine OEF/OIF veterans (1 woman and 8 men) indicated they had received feedback for risky alcohol consumption. Participants generally liked the standard-drinks image, alcohol-related caloric and monetary feedback, and the website’s brevity and anonymity (a priori domains). They also experienced challenges with portions of the e-SBI assessment and viewed feedback regarding alcohol risk and normative drinking as problematic, but described potential benefits derived from the e-SBI (emergent domains). The most appealing e-SBIs would ensure anonymity and provide personalized transparent feedback about alcohol-related risk, consideration of the context for drinking, strategies to reduce drinking, and additional resources for veterans with more severe alcohol misuse.
Results of this qualitative exploratory study suggest e-SBI may be an acceptable strategy for increasing OEF/OIF veteran access to evidenced-based alcohol SBI.
PMCID: PMC3507636  PMID: 23186354
Internet; Alcohol; Brief intervention; Feedback; Iraq war; Veteran
20.  Veterans’ Preferences for Receiving Information about VA Services: Is Getting the Information You Want Related to Increased Healthcare Utilization? 
Military medicine  2016;181(2):106-110.
Although the current cohort of returning veterans has engaged more fully with care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) than have veterans from previous eras, concern remains regarding low engagement with VA services,1 particularly for specialty services for diagnoses that can most negatively impact quality of life. The current study used the framework of the Andersen model2 to examine factors related to VA healthcare use in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF-OIF) veterans. Match between veterans’ preferences for source of information about VA programs and veterans’ actual sources of information about VA services was examined as an additional predictor of help seeking. The study included 1,161 veterans recruited from the southeast United States. Results suggested that veterans prefer to receive information from VA publications and the web, while they actually receive information from VA publications and other veterans. Logistic regression suggested that number of deployments, income, distance to VA, VA disability rating, self-rated health, and match between preferred source of information and actual source of information were significantly related to use of VA services since deployment. These results suggest that future outreach efforts should focus on targeting veterans’ health needs and preferences for care and source of information.
PMCID: PMC5129623  PMID: 26837077
Veterans Affairs; Veterans; Health Care Preferences; Help Seeking; Andersen Model
21.  Gestational Diabetes and Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy Among Women Veterans Deployed in Service of Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq 
Journal of Women's Health  2014;23(10):792-800.
Objective: To determine the prevalence of gestational diabetes (GDM) and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) among women Veterans using Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maternity benefits previously deployed in service of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND), and whether pregnancy complications were associated with VA use following delivery.
Methods: We identified the study population through linkage with the Department of Defense roster and VA administrative and clinical data. GDM and HDP were identified by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes in VA inpatient or outpatient files. Similarly, we constructed a nationally representative sample of deliveries from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. We calculated standardized incidence ratios (SIR) adjusted for age and year of delivery to compare rates of GDM and HDP. Proportional hazards regression was used to determine whether pregnancy complications were associated with use of VA following delivery.
Results: Between 2001 and 2010, 2,288 women OEF/OIF/OND Veterans used VA maternity benefits; 5.2% had GDM and 9.6% had HDP. Compared with women delivering in the United States, women OEF/OIF/OND Veterans using VA maternity benefits had higher risk of developing GDM (SIR: 1.40; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.16, 1.68) and HDP (SIR: 1.32; 95% CI 1.15, 1.51). Among women OEF/OIF/OND Veterans using VA maternity benefits, GDM (HR 1.01, 95% CI 0.83, 1.24) and HDP (HR 1.07, 95% CI 0.92, 1.25) were not associated with use of VA following delivery.
Conclusions: Non-VA providers should be aware of their patients' Veteran status and the associated elevated risk for pregnancy complications. Within VA, focused efforts to optimize Veterans' preconception and postpartum health are needed.
PMCID: PMC4195229  PMID: 25090022
22.  Predicting Utilization of Healthcare Services in the Veterans Health Administration by Returning Women Veterans: The Role of Trauma Exposure and Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress 
Psychological services  2015;12(4):412-419.
Combat exposure and military sexual trauma (MST) are prevalent among returning women Veterans and associated with increased alcohol use and psychological distress. However, it remains unclear the extent to which combat exposure and MST are associated with utilization of healthcare in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The current study explored the relationships among alcohol use and distress in women who deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND). It was hypothesized that increased PTSD and depression symptomatology and trauma exposure would be related greater VHA utilization, whereas alcohol misuse would predict lower VHA use. Participants (N = 133) completed an internet-based survey of deployment experiences, substance use, mental health, and utilization of VHA services. In this sample, 33% endorsed MST exposure, 64% endorsed combat exposure, and 78% indicated exposure to the aftermath of battle. Multiple regression models found combat exposure – but not MST or aftermath – to be significantly associated with alcohol use and symptoms of PTSD and depression. Only 37% of participants reported use of VHA services, and logistic regression models indicated that PTSD symptomatology was the only unique predictor of VHA use. Findings suggest potential barriers for women who endured sexually based trauma in a military setting in seeking treatment at the VHA.
PMCID: PMC4632644  PMID: 26524283
women Veterans; alcohol; military sexual trauma; PTSD; deployment
23.  Medical Care Needs of Returning Veterans with PTSD: Their Other Burden 
There has been considerable focus on the burden of mental illness (including post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD) in returning Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans, but little attention to the burden of medical illness in those with PTSD.
(1) Determine whether the burden of medical illness is higher in women and men OEF/OIF veterans with PTSD than in those with No Mental Health Conditions (MHC). (2) Identify conditions common in those with PTSD.
Cross-sectional study using existing databases (Fiscal Year 2006–2007).
Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients nationally.
All 90,558 OEF/OIF veterans using VHA outpatient care nationally, categorized into strata: PTSD, Stress-Related Disorders, Other MHCs, and No MHC.
(1) Count of medical conditions; (2) specific medical conditions (from ICD9 codes, using Agency for Health Research and Quality’s Clinical Classifications software framework).
The median number of medical conditions for women was 7.0 versus 4.5 for those with PTSD versus No MHC (p < 0.001), and for men was 5.0 versus 4.0 (p < 0.001). For PTSD patients, the most frequent conditions among women were lumbosacral spine disorders, headache, and lower extremity joint disorders, and among men were lumbosacral spine disorders, lower extremity joint disorders, and hearing problems. These high frequency conditions were more common in those with PTSD than in those with No MHC.
Burden of medical illness is greater in women and men OEF/OIF veteran VHA users with PTSD than in those with No MHC. Health delivery systems serving them should align clinical program development with their medical care needs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11606-010-1497-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3024098  PMID: 20853066
stress disorders; post-traumatic; veterans; Afghan campaign 2001-; Iraq War 2003-; women
24.  Deployment-Related TBI, Persistent Postconcussive Symptoms, PTSD, and Depression in OEF/OIF Veterans 
Rehabilitation psychology  2011;56(4):340-350.
A substantial proportion of the more than 2 million service members who have served in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Understanding the long-term impact of TBI is complicated by the non-specific nature of postconcussive symptoms (PCS) and the high rates of co-occurrence among TBI, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. The goal of the present research was to examine the relations among TBI, persistent PCS, and symptoms of PTSD and depression among returning OEF/OIF Veterans.
Two-hundred and thirteen OEF/OIF Veterans (87% male) completed a semi-structured screening interview assessing deployment-related TBI and current, persistent PCS. Participants also completed self-report measures of combat exposure and current symptoms of PTSD and depression.
Nearly half (46%) of sampled Veterans screened positive for TBI, the majority of whom (85%) reported at least one persistent PCS after removing PCS that overlapped with PTSD and depression. Veterans with deployment-related TBI reported higher levels of combat exposure and symptoms of PTSD and depression. Structural equation modeling was used to assess the fit of three models of the relationships among TBI, combat exposure, persistent PCS, PTSD, and depression. Consistent with hypotheses, the best fitting model was one in which the effects of TBI on both PTSD and depression were fully mediated by non-overlapping persistent PCS.
These findings highlight the importance of addressing persistent PCS in order to facilitate the functional recovery of returning war Veterans.
PMCID: PMC5032644  PMID: 22121940
25.  Gender Differences in Health Service Utilization Among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 
Journal of Women's Health  2012;21(6):666-673.
Little is known about gender differences in healthcare use among newly returning veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We investigated gender differences in Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center health service use among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD with and without comorbid depression and alcohol use disorders (AUD).
Using VA administrative data, bivariate and multivariate statistics were used to examine gender differences in health service use among 159,705 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans with PTSD seeking VA healthcare from October 7, 2001, to December 31, 2010.
Female veterans with PTSD were more likely to be black and single and to have higher mental health, primary care, and emergency care use compared to men with PTSD. Men were more likely to have higher mental health inpatient use compared to women. Women and men with comorbid PTSD and depression or comorbid PTSD and AUD were more likely to have higher use in all domains compared to their counterparts with PTSD without these comorbid disorders. Women with comorbid PTSD and depression were 12.5 times more likely to have a mental health inpatient hospitalization compared to their female counterparts without depression and twice as likely to have a mental health hospitalization compared to men with comorbid PTSD and depression.
Women with PTSD had higher use than men in almost all areas, as did all veterans with comorbid PTSD and depression and comorbid PTSD and AUD, regardless of gender. Better understanding these health service use differences will allow for targeted evaluation and integrated treatment interventions in veterans with PTSD.
PMCID: PMC3366102  PMID: 22313026

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