Most Common Veterans Injuries and Disabilities

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), once called shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome, is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. PTSD is a lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Families of victims can also develop PTSD, as can emergency personnel and rescue workers.

Most people who experience a traumatic event will have reactions that may include shock, anger, nervousness, fear, and even guilt. These reactions are common; and for most people, they go away over time. For a person with PTSD, however, these feelings continue and even increase, becoming so strong that they keep the person from living a normal life. People with PTSD have symptoms for longer than one month and cannot function as well as before the event occurred.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs from a sudden blow or jolt to the head. Brain injury often occurs during some type of trauma, such as an accident, blast, or a fall. Often when people refer to TBI, they are mistakenly talking about the symptoms that occur following a TBI. Actually, a TBI is the injury, not the symptoms.

Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military. It includes any sexual activity where someone is involved against his or her will – he or she may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied faster promotions or better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include unwanted sexual touching or grabbing; threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities; and/or threatening or unwelcome sexual advances.

Urologic Injuries

Injuries to the bladder, ureters, kidneys and genitalia usually require complex surgery. Such injuries may be made worse because more serious problems are treated first on the battlefield.

Chemical Exposure

Exposure to chemical nerve agents such as sarin can result in long-term heart damage that includes an enlarged left ventricle, heart rhythm anomalies and a reduction in heart pumping strength. Nerve agents and chemicals are common in war zones.

Infectious Diseases

Military personnel are given routine vaccinations before deployment. Yet veterans suffer disproportionately from certain infections that civilians almost never experience and for which vaccines are not available, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They include bacterial infections such as brucellosis, which may persist for years; campylobacter jejuni, which causes abdominal pain, fever and diarrhea; and Coxiella burnetii, which in chronic cases can inflame the heart. Some of these can be fatal if not treated.

Noise and Vibration Exposure

Hearing impairment and tinnitus are common in veterans because of the noise of gunfire, heavy weapons, naval engine rooms and aircraft. Veterans who worked with certain types of machinery may suffer from vibration exposure that results in numbness and irreversible lower back pain.