Casualty Surge: VA Treats 229,000 Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans

Army Times

VA lists top reasons troops seek care 

Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans no longer in the military are most likely to seek care for musculoskeletal diseases, mental health disorders, and symptoms without an immediate known cause, such as rashes or dizziness, new statistics show.

The numbers, provided to the Government Accountability Office by the Department of Veterans Affairs, include 229,015 service members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003 who have left the military and had a medical appointment at a VA facility. A total of 636,306 service members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have left the military.

The numbers show that 54 percent of those who served in combat and left the military were reserve or National Guard troops, but they represented 51 percent of those who sought care.

Sixty-six percent of those who visited a VA facility served in the Army, 12 percent served in the Air Force, 12 percent were Marines and 10 percent were in the Navy.

The numbers also show that more veterans requested treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in specific geographic areas. For example, 1,026 veterans asked for help for PTSD symptoms in upstate New York compared to 49 in Grand Junction, Colo. Those numbers are important because even as the VA struggles to get mental health care to rural areas, its resources are stressed in other regions. A total of 39,243 veterans asked for treatment for PTSD.

The statistics also show that 88 percent of those seeking treatment were male, 97 percent were outpatients and 92 percent were enlisted. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars represented 4 percent of the total number of vets using VA health care, which is more than 5 million.

The top reasons for seeking treatment were 37 percent for mental disorders, 43 percent for musculoskeletal injuries — usually back or joint problems — and 34 percent for symptoms without an immediate known cause.

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