Veterans and diabetes

The link between diabetes Type 2 mellitus and veterans.

Veteran’s health issues are an important concern for Americans. Veterans, their families and the communities they call home share a major health concern. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is on the rise in our country! It has been documented that some veterans are linked to Type 2 diabetes mellitus from their exposure to a chemical agent called “Agent Orange.” Other veterans are entering the “high-risk” age group for the onset Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) veterans who develop Type 2 diabetes mellitus and were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service do not have to prove a connection between their diabetes and service to be eligible to receive VA health care and disability compensation.

According to Department of Veterans Affairs; records obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, diabetes is now the top claim for Vietnam Veterans.  

Diabetes risk factors of an aging veteran population

Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, especially in people who are overweight. Health factors such as age, genetics and heredity, lifestyle and overall health management are reflected in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

As of July 2014, the United States Census Bureau records show that there are 21.8 million U.S. veterans; 20.2 million males and 1.6 million females.

Overall the average age of a U.S. veteran is 58-years-old, with the largest group of veterans between the ages of 45 and 64. More specifically, 21.1 percent of the veteran population is under the age of 45, 41.2 percent are between the ages of 45 and 64 and 37.1 percent of the population is 65-years or older.

The average age today for Vietnam veterans would be around 60-65. The youngest Vietnam War vet might be around 52 years old (this age group is among the highest for the onset of diabetes in the “at risk” group). Age 60 years or older: 12.2 million, or 23.1 percent, of all people in this age group have diabetes.

Signs, symptoms & risk factors of Type 2 diabetes:

  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that affects the body's ability to use blood sugar for energy. In Type 2 diabetes mellitus, the body does not produce enough insulin or the body's cells ignore the insulin.
  • Signs of diabetes type 2 (untreated) are: Blurry vision, excessive thirst, fatigue, hunger, frequent urination and weight loss.
  • Risk factors for diabetes Type 2 include: Over age 45, family history and genetics, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, obesity and gestational diabetes.

By understanding the chronic health conditions prevalent among all veterans we can then build a support system offering health services and programming while assessing needs and offering support.

If you are a veteran and you have questions about your exposure to Agent Orange, contact your local VA office. Helpful online resources can be found at:

For more tips on chronic illness and diabetes visit Michigan State University Extension at

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