Veterans often face certain medical conditions more so than their civilian counterparts caused by events that occurred in service. Due to the physical intensity required by military service, many veterans face musculoskeletal conditions—in fact, conditions of the musculoskeletal system are the most common types of disabilities veterans face. Other common disabilities include those of the auditory system, likely caused by factors such as gunfire, and mental health disorders caused by the potential stressors military service can bring.
According to VA’s Annual Benefits Report for Fiscal Year 2016, there are approximately 4.4 million disabled veterans with over 21 million disabilities. Here are the most common disabilities among the veteran population:
- Tinnitus: 1,610,911 veterans
Tinnitus is the most commonly claimed disability by veterans. The condition often involves hearing sound when no external sound is present, most often described as ringing in the ears.
- Hearing loss: 1,084,069 veterans
Hearing loss is the second most claimed disability by veterans.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: 887,899 veterans
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most claimed mental health disorder among veterans. PTSD can last for months or years and is classified by triggers rendering memories of trauma leading to emotional and physical reactions.
- Lumbosacral or cervical strain: 844,353 veterans
Lumbosacral strain is the leading cause of low back pain among former service members. Cervical strain is also referred to as neck strain. These conditions are usually the result of a physical injury.
- Scars, general: 827,459 veterans
Veterans can receive service connection for scars incurred during military service.
- Limitation of flexion, knee: 755,204 veterans
Veterans experiencing limited flexion of the knee are unable to bend the knee to full capacity. This can be caused by physical trauma or an underlying condition such as arthritis.
- Paralysis of the sciatic nerve: 580,986 veterans
The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back and travels down to each leg. Veterans experiencing paralysis of this nerve may experience difficulty bending the knee, pointing and flexing the foot, and turning the heel outward depending on the severity of their condition.
- Limitation of motion of the ankle: 511,300 veterans
When veterans are unable to achieve the normal range of motion for an ankle joint due to an injury or underlying condition, VA will rate the veteran based on that limitation of motion.
- Diabetes Mellitus: 438,572 veterans
Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 affects many veterans, especially those from the Vietnam era who were exposed to Agent Orange. Diabetes mellitus is listed as a presumptive condition associated with herbicide exposure in service.
- Migraine Headaches: 436,339 veterans
Migraine headaches are often of unknown origin although triggers can include sensory stimulation, stress, and changes in environment—all common occurrences while on active duty.