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Report Finds Gaps in Health Services for U.S. Veterans
Date:3/31/2010

Families and communities also need assistance, experts say

WEDNESDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. government agencies need to do more to meet the physical and mental health needs of military personnel returning home from tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, contends a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

And the added aid should extend to their families and communities as well, the report suggests.

Veterans today differ from those who returned from earlier wars, said Dr. Albert W. Wu, a professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a member of the committee that prepared the report for the institute, an independent advisory arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

The nearly 2 million veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are older and many more are married than veterans from other wars, he noted. Today, the average enlisted person is 27, compared with an average age of 18 during World War II, Wu said, and more than half are married and have children.

Today's veterans also have a higher survival rate after being wounded -- three times higher than from the Vietnam War, Wu said.

"People are surviving with pretty devastating injuries," he said. "Consequently, there are almost 44,000 veterans with traumatic brain injury to be cared for."

Chuck Arnold, coordinator of the veterans program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said that "today's veteran is facing so much more than in the past -- family issues, unemployment when returning, etcetera."

"While the veteran is trained to handle difficult situations, families are not," Arnold said. "There needs to be more education and training for families, to include children."

To address these issues, the institute's report, released March 31, recommends that the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs:

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