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ED trouble for vets

A study of over 900 male military veterans that served in combat roles or during the Vietnam War found that erectile dysfunction was one of the most prevalent sexual afflictions. U.S. Army photo

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In a 2022 Military Medicine Study of male military veterans, erectile dysfunction (ED) was found to be one of the most prevalent sexual afflictions in veterans and often co-occurs with physical and mental health issues. 

"Military veterans are at elevated risk for many comorbid physical and mental health issues, including ED, although little research has examined the prevalence and health burden of ED in the general U.S. veteran population," reported the study.

In surveying 921 male veterans, the study noted that those with ED were typically over 60 years of age, had served in combat roles or during the Vietnam War, had spent less than four years in the military, and were presently unemployed.

The study also pointed out that five comorbid physical conditions were common among those experiencing ED; high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, arthritis, and sleep disorder. As for mental health conditions, depression, generalized anxiety disorder and probably post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were most common.

"The findings align with research suggesting that both acute and chronic psychological stress may impact erectile function," continued the study.

"Similar to previous research, U.S. veterans with ED were significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with a number of comorbid medical conditions and severe mental disorders."

A 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine had found that male veterans with PTSD were significantly more likely than their civilian counterparts to report ED or other sexual problems.

The study also pointed out that almost 24 percent of female veterans seeking Veterans Administration (VA) health care reported a history of sexual dysfunction due to military sexual trauma.

The VA is not inclined to offer disability ratings for ED unless it is service connected and the issue is related to the genitourinary system, the organs comprising the reproductive and urinary systems.

According to legal experts, a service connection for erectile dysfunction, even at zero percent, makes veterans eligible for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) for loss of a creative organ. The SMC is paid out in veterans' monthly VA compensation check.

However, in order to qualify for VA disability benefits for ED, three criteria must be met. There has to be evidence of an injury, illness or event during military service; there must be a current diagnosis from a medical professional; and there must be a clear cause-and-effect relationship between a specific event in the veteran's military service and the ED.

Researchers from both the 2015 and 2022 studies pointed out that additional studies are needed to determine the "directionality" of erectile dysfunction.

"Our findings support previous research indicating high rates of comorbidity between ED and physical and mental health conditions," the 2022 study reported.

"In addition to this, the current study specifically addresses these concerns in U.S. veterans, a population shown to have an elevated risk of physical and mental health conditions."

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