Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 27, Issue 9, pp 1200-1209

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Post Deployment Care for Returning Combat Veterans

  • Juliette F. SpelmanAffiliated withVA Connecticut Health Care SystemYale School of Medicine Email author 
  • , Stephen C. HuntAffiliated withPuget Sound VA Medical CenterUniversity of Washington School of Medicine
  • , Karen H. SealAffiliated withSan Francisco VA Medical CenterDepartments of Medicine and Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco
  • , A. Lucile Burgo-BlackAffiliated withVA Connecticut Health Care SystemYale School of Medicine


Since September 11, 2001, 2.4 million military personnel have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, roughly 1.44 million have separated from the military and approximately 772,000 of these veterans have used VA health care. Combat deployments impact the physical, psychological, and social health of veterans. Given that many veterans are receiving care from non-VA providers, it is important that all community health care workers be familiar with the unique health care needs of this patient population, which include injuries associated with blast exposures (including mild traumatic brain injury), as well as a variety of mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Other important health concerns are chronic musculoskeletal pain, medically unexplained symptoms, sequelae of environmental exposures, depression, suicide, substance abuse, sleep disturbances, and impairments in family, occupational and social functioning. Elevated rates of hypertension and tobacco use remind us that deployment may result not only in immediate impacts on health, but also increase risk for chronic disease, contributing to a growing public health burden. This paper provides a comprehensive review of these health concerns and offers practical management guidelines for primary care providers. In light of relationships between physical, psychological and psychosocial concerns in this population, we recommend an interdisciplinary approach to care directed toward mitigating the long-term health impacts of combat.


combat post-deployment OEF/OIF veteran Iraq Afghanistan