One group of veterans who would seem to be at an especially high risk for bad outcomes are those involved in the criminal-justice system.
Media attention has focused on crimes committed by returned veterans, with victims often being family members or fellow military personnel.
A study of inmates released from prisons in Washington state from 1999 to 2003 indicated that the risk of death was 3.5 times that of other state residents over the next two years (adjusted for age, sex, and race), and 12 times higher during the first two weeks following release. However, after further adjustment for demographic factors, veteran status appeared not to be a factor, said Hal Wortzel, M.D., a forensic neuropsychiatrist at the Denver VA’s VISN-19 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Interestingly, 77 percent of the veterans who were inmates in this study had honorable discharges, but 85 percent were not receiving VA benefits.
“All releasees did poorly, but veterans who were receiving benefits appeared to have some protection,” Wortzel.
More research is still needed on veterans who have served since 2001 and who are in the criminal-justice system to identify their medical and neuropsychiatric status, said Wortzel.