Health status of Persian Gulf War veterans: self-reported symptoms, environmental exposures and the effect of stress.
BACKGROUND: Most US troops returned home from the Persian Gulf War (PGW) by Spring 1991 and many began reporting increased health symptoms and medical problems soon after. This investigation examines the relationships between several Gulf-service environmental exposures and health symptom reporting, and the role of traumatic psychological stress on the exposure-health symptom relationships. METHODS: Stratified, random samples of two cohorts of PGW veterans, from the New England area (n = 220) and from the New Orleans area (n = 71), were selected from larger cohorts being followed longitudinally since arrival home from the Gulf. A group of PGW-era veterans deployed to Germany (n = 50) served as a comparison group. The study protocol included questionnaires, a neuropsychological test battery, an environmental interview, and psychological diagnostic interviews. This report focuses on self-reported health symptoms and exposures of participants who completed a 52-item health symptom checklist and a checklist of environmental exposures. RESULTS: The prevalence of reported symptoms was greater in both Persian Gulf-deployed cohorts compared to the Germany cohort. Analyses of the body-system symptom scores (BSS), weighted to account for sampling design, and adjusted by age, sex, and education, indicated that Persian Gulf-deployed veterans were more likely to report neurological, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, cardiac, dermatological, musculoskeletal, psychological and neuropsychological system symptoms than Germany veterans. Using a priori hypotheses about the toxicant effects of exposure to specific toxicants, the relationships between self-reported exposures and body-system symptom groupings were examined through multiple regression analyses, controlling for war-zone exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Self-reported exposures to pesticides, debris from Scuds, chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents, and smoke from tent heaters each were significantly related to increased reporting of specific predicted BSS groupings. CONCLUSIONS: Veterans deployed to the Persian Gulf have higher self-reported prevalence of health symptoms compared to PGW veterans who were deployed only as far as Germany. Several Gulf-service environmental exposures are associated with increased health symptom reporting involving predicted body-systems, after adjusting for war-zone stressor exposures and PTSD. (+info)
Improving access to disability benefits among homeless persons with mental illness: an agency-specific approach to services integration.
OBJECTIVES: This study evaluated a joint initiative of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve access to Social Security disability benefits among homeless veterans with mental illness. METHODS: Social Security personnel were colocated with VA clinical staff at 4 of the VA's Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) programs. Intake assessment data were merged with SSA administrative data to determine the proportion of veterans who filed applications and who received disability awards at the 4 SSA-VA Joint Outreach Initiative sites (n = 6709) and at 34 comparison HCHV sites (n = 27 722) during the 2 years before and after implementation of the program. RESULTS: During the 2 years after the initiative began, higher proportions of veterans applied for disability (18.9% vs 11.1%; P < .001) and were awarded benefits (11.4% vs 7.2%, P < .001) at SSA-VA Joint Initiative sites. CONCLUSION: A colocation approach to service system integration can improve access to disability entitlements among homeless persons with mental illness. Almost twice as many veterans were eligible for this entitlement as received it through a standard outreach program. (+info)
Serum dioxin and cancer in veterans of Operation Ranch Hand.
We studied cancer prevalence and exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (dioxin) in veterans of Operation Ranch Hand, the Air Force unit responsible for the aerial spraying of herbicides in Vietnam from 1962 to 1971. A comparison group of Air Force veterans who served in Southeast Asia during the same period and who were not involved with spraying herbicides was included. Comparison veterans were matched to Ranch Hand veterans on age, race, and military occupation. We measured dioxin in 1987 or 1992, extrapolated the result to the time of service in Southeast Asia, and assigned each Ranch Hand veteran to Background, Low, or High exposure categories. This study had low power to detect an effect for specific or rare cancers. The risk of cancer at sites other than the skin within 20 years of service was increased in the Low (odds ratio (OR) = 3.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.5-8.0) and High (OR = 2.7, 95% CI 0.9-8.0) categories, but the pattern was inconsistent with another study, suggesting that the excess risk may not have been caused by dioxin exposure. Overall, we found no consistent evidence of a dose-response gradient and no significant increase in cancer risk in the High dioxin exposure category, the subgroup of greatest a priori interest. (+info)
Neural correlates of exposure to traumatic pictures and sound in Vietnam combat veterans with and without posttraumatic stress disorder: a positron emission tomography study.
BACKGROUND: Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) show a reliable increase in PTSD symptoms and physiological reactivity following exposure to traumatic pictures and sounds. In this study neural correlates of exposure to traumatic pictures and sounds were measured in PTSD. METHODS: Positron emission tomography and H2[15O] were used to measure cerebral blood flow during exposure to combat-related and neutral pictures and sounds in Vietnam combat veterans with and without PTSD. RESULTS: Exposure to traumatic material in PTSD (but not non-PTSD) subjects resulted in a decrease in blood flow in medial prefrontal cortex (area 25), an area postulated to play a role in emotion through inhibition of amygdala responsiveness. Non-PTSD subjects activated anterior cingulate (area 24) to a greater degree than PTSD patients. There were also differences in cerebral blood flow response in areas involved in memory and visuospatial processing (and by extension response to threat), including posterior cingulate (area 23), precentral (motor) and inferior parietal cortex, and lingual gyrus. There was a pattern of increases in PTSD and decreases in non-PTSD subjects in these areas. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that functional alternations in specific cortical and subcortical brain areas involved in memory, visuospatial processing, and emotion underlie the symptoms of patients with PTSD. (+info)
Validation of a Trauma Questionnaire in veteran women.
The Trauma Questionnaire (TQ) assesses a woman's history of childhood and adult sexual trauma, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. The TQ is used widely at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, but its validity has not been thoroughly examined. In a prospective study of 127 women, we found the TQ to have good to excellent agreement with a semistructured clinician interview and good sensitivity and specificity. The TQ can be used as a valid alternative to the clinician interview in the initial elicitation of trauma history among women veterans in the primary care setting. (+info)
The role of patients and providers in the timing of follow-up visits. Telephone Care Study Group.
OBJECTIVE: Although the decision about how frequently to see outpatients has a direct impact on a provider's workload and may impact health care costs, revisit intervals have rarely been a topic of investigation. To begin to understand what factors are correlated with this decision, we examined baseline data from a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Cooperative Study designed to evaluate telephone care. DESIGN: Observational study based on extensive patient data collected during enrollment into the randomized trial. Providers were required to recommend a revisit interval (e.g., "return visit in 3 months") for each patient before randomization, under the assumption that the patient would be receiving clinic visits as usual. POPULATION/SETTING: Five hundred seventy-one patients over age 55 cared for by one of the 30 providers working in three VA general medical clinics. Patients for whom immediate follow-up (+info)
RNAs in the sera of Persian Gulf War veterans have segments homologous to chromosome 22q11.2.
Reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) was used for polyribonucleotide assays with sera from deployed Persian Gulf War veterans with the Gulf War Syndrome and a cohort of nonmilitary controls. Sera from veterans contained polyribonucleotides (amplicons) that were obtained by RT-PCR and that ranged in size from 200 to ca. 2,000 bp. Sera from controls did not contain amplicons larger than 450 bp. DNA sequences were derived from two amplicons unique to veterans. These amplicons, which were 414 and 759 nucleotides, were unrelated to each other or to any sequence in gene bank databases. The amplicons contained short segments that were homologous to regions of chromosome 22q11.2, an antigen-responsive hot spot for genetic rearrangements. Many of these short amplicon segments occurred near, between, or in chromosome 22q11.2 Alu sequences. These results suggest that genetic alterations in the 22q11.2 region, possibly induced by exposures to environmental genotoxins during the Persian Gulf War, may have played a role in the pathogenesis of the Gulf War Syndrome. However, the data did not exclude the possibility that other chromosomes also may have been involved. Nonetheless, the detection of polyribonucleotides such as those reported here may have application to the laboratory diagnosis of chronic diseases that have a multifactorial etiology. (+info)
Dual use of VA and non-VA primary care.
OBJECTIVE: To determine how frequently veterans use non-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) sources of care in addition to primary care provided by the VA and to assess the association of this pattern of "dual use" to patient characteristics and satisfaction with VA care. DESIGN: Cross-sectional telephone survey of randomly selected patients from four VA medical centers. PARTICIPANTS: Of 1,240 eligible veterans, 830 (67%) participated in the survey. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Survey data were used to assess whether a veteran reported receiving primary care from both VA and non-VA sources of care, as well as the proportion of all primary care visits made to non-VA providers. Of 577 veterans who reported VA primary care visits, 159 (28%) also reported non-VA primary care visits. Among these dual users the mean proportion of non-VA primary care visits was 0.50. Multivariate analysis revealed that the odds of dual use were reduced for those without insurance (odds ratio [OR] 0.34; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.18, 0.66) and with less education (OR 0.60; 95% CI 0.38, 0.92), while increased for those not satisfied with VA care (OR 2.40; 95% CI 1.40, 4.13). Among primary care dual users, the proportion of primary care visits made to non-VA providers was decreased for patients with heart disease ( p <.05) and patients with alcohol or drug dependence ( p <.05). CONCLUSIONS: Primary care dual use was common among these veterans. Those with more education, those with any type of insurance, and those not satisfied with VA care were more likely to be dual users. Non-VA care accounted for approximately half of dual users' total primary care visits. (+info)