Disability pension? Just because well over half a century has passed since the Korean War Armistice in 1953, it doesn't preclude current awarding of disability pensions to Korean War veterans.

The findings of the Health Study 2005 Australian Veterans of the Korean War were accepted by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). This opened the door to broader acceptance of Canadian veterans' health problems related to their military service.

From the Australian report:

" The result of the study showed that, approximately five decades after the Korean War, surviving veterans are experiencing markedly poorer psychological health, physical health, life satisfaction and quality of life, compared with a group of similarly aged Australian men who were residing in Australia at the time of the Korean War. The results also show that surviving Korean War veterans report a lifetime pattern of excess alcohol and tobacco consumption.

" Korean War veterans . . . were about six times more likely to meet criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than the comparison group.

" the magnitude of the difference between the two study groups provides compelling evidence that Australian Korean War veterans are experiencing markedly higher levels of PTSD than that which would be expected in Australian men of similar age and ethnic background.

" The adverse impact of PTSD upon the lives of affected individuals can be significant, with chronic PTSD characterized by interacting groups of unpleasant and distressing symptoms including intrusive, avoidant and hyperarousal phenomena. These may include, for example, distressing memories, dreams or nightmares of the event, restricted range of affect and emotional responses, and irritability and/or sudden outbursts of excessive anger. It is not unusual for PTSD to be accompanied by other physical, psychological and social problems, including comorbid depression, alcohol abuse and/or panic disorder, marital and family dysfunction, and worsened experience of physical disability from other medical problems. As the Korean War veterans age, symptoms in many cases are likely to worsen rather than improve. . . . The authors suggest that retirement could be an important developmental milestone contributing to PTSD symptom increase.

"Fifteen medical conditions included in the participant questionnaire were all reported one and a half to three times more frequently by Korean War veterans than the comparison group. These included asthma, high blood pressure, stroke (or after effects of stroke), heart attack or angina, rapid or irregular heart beat, liver disease, arthritis, kidney disease, diabetes, melanoma, other skin cancer (not skin), stomach or duodenal ulcer, partial or complete blindness (not corrected by glasses) and partial or complete deafness.

"The pattern of excess medical conditions in Korean War veterans is consistent with findings of the Australian Korean War veterans' mortality and Cancer Incidence Studies which found excess cancers including melanoma, and excess mortality associated with cancer, respiratory diseases, digestive diseases and diseases of the circulatory system including ischaemic heart disease and stroke.

"Overall, Korean War veterans have experienced a 21% higher mortality rate than other Australian men, and between 13% and 23% higher cancer incidence. Amongst survivors, psychological disorders appear to be particularly excessive, medical conditions and hospitalizations are also elevated, and quality of life and life satisfaction is poorer than experienced by other Australian men."

Very few Canadian Korean War veterans, especially those who experienced combat, escaped from some form of disability, whether physical, mental or emotional. Hearing loss is a common impairment. Even those who did not serve under fire in Korea, no doubt experienced many hours on a firing range, battle indoctrination or field exercises at a time when hearing protection such as ear coverings were unheard of in the military.

For those veterans who experience frequent nightmares, anxiety attacks or the effects of alcoholism should contact VAC for possible counselling and pension.

Many Canadian veterans are now receiving disability pensions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD includes other lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Canadians who served in the Korean War and have afflictions related to their military service are urged to contact Veterans Affairs Canada, toll free, at 1-866-522-2122.

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The Health Study 2005 Australian Veterans of the Korean War (over 150 pages plus supplementals) is available online through the courtesy of Dave Davidson, a former KVA National President. KWHS2005_ALL.pdf