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Do veterans of the Vietnam War experience different health outcomes as they age?

Understanding Vietnam veterans’ health

Challenge

To better understand and meet the health needs of veterans who served during the Vietnam era (the early 1960s to the mid-1970s), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) conducted a large, national study that will compare veterans’ health to the health of people their age who did not serve in the military. The VA teamed up with Westat to conduct the study, called the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study (VE-HEROeS).

Solution

We designed the study, including participant selection criteria, the questionnaire, data collection methods, and more. About 12,000 veterans and 4,500 non-veterans participated in the study.

The study participants included veterans who served in Vietnam and those who served during the same time period but not in Vietnam, as well as members of the U.S. that did not serve in the military.

The mailed survey asked veterans and non-veterans about their physical and mental health, military and occupational exposures, and lifestyle. The survey also asked about whether the veteran’s service was exclusively in the deep coastal waters off of Vietnam, called “Blue Water Navy,” and tried to describe the current health of this particular subgroup.

We sent requests to 2,000 to consent to review of their medical records to confirm the self-reported cases of neurological conditions and hepatitis C.

We worked with the VA research team to analyze the findings and prepare a final methodology report and related journal articles.

Results

The study findings will be used by

  • Veterans and their families who have questions about the long-term health effects of service during the Vietnam War
  • Clinicians who care for veterans and lack sufficient evidence to explain their health conditions
  • The VA health care system, which seeks to improve the veterans’ health care, prevention services, and compensation benefits, and to anticipate their future needs

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