COPD and Veterans: What is the Connection?

Posted on November 12, 2018   |   
Author: Bill Clark - Community Manager   |   

John Linnell

The COPD Foundation would like to celebrate and honor veterans for their service and sacrifices! Veterans are an integral part of our community and 360social network. Did you know that veterans also have a higher risk of being diagnosed with COPD?

Deployed soldiers are often exposed to dust, chemicals, fumes, and sand for long periods of time. Soldiers are also commonly breathing in air pollution and smoke from burn pits used for waste disposal. On top of these hazards, there is a higher prevalence of tobacco use in the military.

Chronic and daily exposure to these conditions can lead to airway irritation, cough, lung damage, shortness of breath, and respiratory tract infections but an NHLBI survey showed that veterans who experience breathing issues are less likely to talk to their doctors about the symptoms.

COPD is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality within Veterans Health Administration. One study revealed that sixty nine percent of deployed military personnel experienced respiratory illnesses and symptoms while in the field. In 2011, respiratory diseases (including COPD) were responsible for over 250,000 medical encounters among active duty U.S. military personnel and COPD was the fourth most common reason for hospitalization among veterans.

There is so much more to learn about the reasons why veterans are at a higher risk for COPD so that we can identify policies and practices that will improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment and the support we provide to active duty military members, veterans and their families.

In 2018, the Foundation advocated for Congress to include COPD in the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. While COPD was not added as a separate topic this year, it was listed as one priority area under respiratory health and we hope that the research community takes advantage of this opportunity to submit more grants.

State Captain, John Linnell, recently participated as a peer reviewer of grants for this program at a meeting in Washington, DC. He was able to give the DOD input from the patient perspective, helping to make sure the proposed research addresses important needs in the community.

What can you do to support veterans and their families with COPD? This Veteran’s day reach out to your elected officials and tell them your story and ask them to stand up for veterans dealing with COPD by joining the Congressional COPD Caucus.

Are you or a family member a veteran? Share their stories and support each other right here on COPD360Social everyday of the year.


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  • Thank you for sharing this, Bill -- and thanks to John for his advocacy. Happy Veterans Day and thanks so all who serve!
    • I totally agree...thank you!
      I am so pleased to have read this informed article and know our Copd Foundation is moving in all areas. I have thought many times about of the conditions of our military, I have a brother who served two tours of Vietnam.
      I'm also concerned about our firefighters. I have a son who is a firefighter and now close to retirement. He along with many others went to New York to do what they could, during the horrors of 9/11
      We certainly need to take care of those who take care of us
  • Thank you for sharing this. I had the honor of providing respiratory care to our vets and I cannot say enough how grateful I was to help them.
    Thank you for your service and for advocating.
    My goal is to continue to care for our vets in their home and become proactive in their treatment.