Amanda L. Piccirillo, M.P.H., Elizabeth R. Packnett, M.P.H., David N. Cowan, Ph.D., M.P.H., Michael R. Boivin, M.D., M.P.H.
Disability and Health Journal, Vol. 9, Issue 2, p324–331
The rate of permanent disability retirement in U.S. Army soldiers and the prevalence of combat-related disabilities have significantly increased over time. Prior research on risk factors associated with disability retirement included soldiers retired prior to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To identify risk factors for disability discharge among soldiers enlisted in the U.S. Army during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In this case-control study, cases included active duty soldiers evaluated for disability discharge. Controls, randomly selected from soldiers with no history of disability evaluation, were matched to cases based on enlistment year and sex. Conditional logistic regression models calculated odds of disability discharge. Attributable fractions estimated burden of disability for specific pre-existing condition categories. Poisson regression models compared risk of disability discharge related to common disability types by deployment and combat status.
Characteristics at military enlistment with increased odds of disability discharge included a pre-existing condition, increased age or body mass index, white race, and being divorced. Musculoskeletal conditions and overweight contributed the largest proportion of disabilities. Deployment was protective against disability discharge or receiving a musculoskeletal-related disability, but significantly increased the risk of disability related to a psychiatric or neurological condition.
Soldiers with a pre-existing condition at enlistment, particularly a musculoskeletal condition, had increased odds of disability discharge. Risk of disability was dependent on condition category when stratified by deployment and combat status. Additional research examining conditions during pre-disability hospitalizations could provide insight on specific conditions that commonly lead to disability discharge.