Long Term Outcomes of Military Service Cover

Long Term Outcomes of Military Service

The Health and Well-Being of Aging Veterans

Edited by Avron Spiro, Richard A. Settersten Jr., and Carolyn M. Aldwin

American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., 2017, 306 pages

Book Review published on: August 31, 2018

Much ink has been spilled of late studying the effects of combat in Iraq or Afghanistan on U.S. service members. The two formerly obscure phrases of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are now part of mainstream America’s lexicon. What has been lacking, however, is a comprehensive look at the positive and negative consequences of military service on veterans including, but not limited to, PTSD and TBI. Long Term Outcomes of Military Service: The Health and Well-Being of Aging Veterans examines the impact of military service in three broad categories of psychosocial dynamics, health dynamics, and policy making.

The intended purpose of this book is noble and forward thinking—for example, understanding how military service changed the lives of World War II and Korean War veterans will enable better care of service members in the future. In the editors’ words, the “intended audience includes academics, researchers and medical practioners interested in understanding how military service affects veterans’ health” throughout their lives. Individual chapters discuss the impact of uniformed service on social support networks, mental and physical health, service member marriages, views on patriotism, aging, and government policy implications for veterans. Additional chapters focus upon military service implications for female, minority, and returning prisoner-of-war population groups. Each chapter follows the basic outline normally associated with professional academic texts, beginning with an introductory description of the research question, methodology, and results. Most chapters include a heavy dose of statistics from a given sample population before concluding with discussion and findings. The authors are all subject-matter experts, well-grounded in research and analysis. Research includes data from a wide swath of over five hundred thousand veterans whose military service includes the period of American history from World War II to the present day.

The book’s dry tone does not readily lend itself to developing reader interest. Attempts to foster a more engaging dialogue would likely increase readership outside of academic or medical circles. Clearly, this information is of value to service members, particularly unit leaders, with a professional desire to better understand the men and women in their commands. Somewhat surprising is that no military veterans appear to be found amongst the large group of writers or editors. While this does not diminish the book’s credibility, the inclusion of veteran voices may have elucidated additional findings critical to the subject matter. Given the continuing decline in veterans represented within the larger U.S. population, broader understanding of service-related issues is critical to providing them appropriate support and health care.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Chris Heatherly, U.S. Army, Wiesbaden, Germany