Vietnam vets dying early: What can we learn?


Are Vietnam veterans dying too soon? Vets and their loved ones are asking whether service in the war damaged their health and shortened their lives.

New York Newsday surveys the anecdotal evidence on Long Island, mostly about vets dying in their fifties–of various cancers, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. The newspaper also reports that the VA’s Eric Shinseki has promised a  three-year study, starting in September, of the war’s health impacts.

Newsday’s not clear, but Shinseki is almost certainly talking about the plan to restart the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, a landmark VA study of post-war psychological problems among Vietnam vets, completed in 1988. The study found 15 percent of male vets had experienced PTSD within the previous 6 months and an estimated 31 percent would experience PTSD during their lifetime, according to congressional testimony.

The study was supposed to be restarted years ago, but it stalled due to poor planning and cost issues. There are other questions:  Will the original vets trust the government enough to participate? Are enough of them alive to draw broad conclusions? How will the study incorporate new treatment methods?

In any case, those Vietnam vets in New York–and probably any vets–are right to be concerned. A recent study by the Los Angeles VA found preliminary evidence of a link between PTSD and heart disease, and a related study showed that PTSD aggravates heart disease. The average age in these studies was 63.

All this begs the question: Is this the future for OEF/OIF veterans, and how can we avoid it? We want to know what you think.


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  1. there is a bloger on all these sites disbuting all your stats. and he keeps saying era vets. & all the stats are about incountry troops, why can’t this dude get this ????????

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