By Brenda L. Mooney
BOSTON – The overwhelming majority of veterans of U.S. conflicts since the terrorist attack on 9/11/2001 are nothing like the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-addled, homeless opioid-addicts too often depicted in the media and in political campaigns.
In fact, according to a new study appearing in Journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, most servicemembers who were discharged from the military this century apparently are doing well with their careers and family life, despite exposure to war zones.1
The research was conducted by the Women’s Health Sciences Division, National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System, the Boston University School of Medicine and the National Center for PTSD at the White River Junction, VT, VAMC.
Study authors pointed out that more than 2.4 million servicemembers have left the military since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars began, with another one million or so expected to separate from service in the next six years.
To determine how they and their families negotiated the many changes that come with the transition and reintegration process, the researchers surveyed a national sample of 524 post-9/11 veterans — 282 women and 240 men –to evaluate their quality of work and home life. They also were questioned about PTSD.
Results indicated that only 3% of the men reported being unemployed and seeking work. Among employed men, 90% reported working full-time with a median income of $50,000-75,000, and more than 80% of men reporting that they were somewhat or very satisfied with their jobs. While about a fourth of the men said they had some impairment in their occupational functioning, only 2% said it got in their way occurred often or always.
Women, meanwhile, were more likely than men to report being unemployed (6%) and somewhat less likely to report working full-time if they were employed, at 83%. The female veterans reported a median salary range of $35,000-50,000, and, like men, about a fourth reported sometimes experiencing impairment. Still, more than 75% said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their jobs.
As for family life, about three-quarters of the men and women reported that they were somewhat or very satisfied with their intimate relationships. Nearly 90% of the women and only a slightly lower percentage of men said they were pleased with their parenting experiences.
“Despite well-documented mental health problems for a small subset of veterans, the majority appear to be doing well on most indicators of work and family quality of life despite their war-time experiences,” emphasized corresponding author Dawne S. Vogt, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and research psychologist in the Women’s Health Sciences Division, National Center for PTSD. “These findings speak to the resilience of our servicemembers, a topic that has received too little attention in the broader national conversation about veteran readjustment.”
The study also found that PTSD had a negative effect on post-discharge life for some veterans. “PTSD was not associated with either employment or relationship status; however, it did predict poorer work and family functioning and satisfaction for both men and women, with the most consistent negative effects on intimate relationships. Several gender differences were found, primarily with respect to work experiences,” study authors explained.
Those results “support the need for interventions that can mitigate the negative effect of PTSD and other associated mental health conditions on several aspects of work and family quality of life,” the researchers concluded. “Findings contribute to research suggesting both similarities and differences in the post-military readjustment of male and female post-9/11 veterans and underscore the need for additional consideration of the unique work-related challenges women experience following military service.”
- Vogt D, Smith BN, Fox AB, Amoroso T, Taverna E, Schnurr PP. Consequences of PTSD for the work and family quality of life of female and male U.S. Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2016 Dec 31. doi: 10.1007/s00127-016-1321-5. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28040826.
A facility-specific survey found that 138 of 140 VA facilities reported shortages of medical officers, with psychiatry and primary care positions being the most frequently listed.
When Terrence O’Neil, MD, retired as chief of nephrology at the James H. Quillen VAMC in Johnson City in December 2016, he left in his wake decades of work treating kidney disease—nearly 35 years in the Air Force and DoD, plus 11 more at VA.