Veterans May Have a Higher Risk of Getting Alzheimer’s

Veterans Saluting

Currently, 1 in 9 Americans over the age of 65 (44 million people worldwide) live with Alzheimer’s disease. These numbers are staggering! Even more startling, is research cited in the Los Angeles Times that reveals that veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are 60% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or a late form of dementia. In addition, the study found that those who developed dementia also tended to develop it about two years earlier than veterans who hadn’t had brain injuries.

The study, which is featured in the journal “Neurology” and supported by the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health, involved 188,784 veterans aged 55 and older who were free of dementia at the study’s start. Their average age was 68. All had visited a V.A. hospital when the study began, and again about nine years later. They were given tests to look for signs of dementia and assessed for other mental health and medical problems. Of the veterans, 1,229 had suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, during service. During the study’s nine-year follow-up period, 196, or 16 percent, developed Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. In comparison, about 10% of those without a brain injury were given a dementia diagnosis.

Additional findings:

• Veterans who had had brain injuries were 60% more likely to develop dementia than those without a brain injury.
•Many of the veterans who had had traumatic brain injuries (TBI) never developed dementia. And some of those who had never had a serious brain injury developed dementia. But overall, veterans with TBI tended to develop dementia about two years earlier (around age 78) than those without a TBI.
•The researchers controlled for factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and alcohol abuse, all of which can increase dementia risk.
•The researchers also found that the risk of dementia was higher in veterans with TBI who also had depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or blood vessel disease than in those with either TBI or these other conditions alone.
•Alzheimer’s researchers have become concerned that brain injuries, possibly even mild to moderate concussions, can cause brain inflammation that then triggers the development of Alzheimer’s in those who may already be at increased risk of the disease.
•The findings show a correlation between brain injury and Alzheimer’s; however, they cannot prove a cause and effect relationship.

Another study found that Veterans who have experienced PTSD are twice as likely as those without PTSD to develop dementia.

Veterans: Be Proactive and Protect Yourself

With risk factors increased to such a degree, it’s important that Veterans know how to protect themselves and their loved ones when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

 •Know what constitutes a “senior moment” and what doesn’t. As we age, many of us experience brief bouts of forgetfulness or confusion. Forgetting an appointment here and there may not be a problem, but if forgetfulness disrupts your day-to-day life or if you experience “confusion with time or place,” it’s possible your senior moments indicate something more serious. If you’re experiencing these warning signs, or if you notice them in a loved one, don’t hesitate to see a doctor.
•Make brain health a priority. If you are at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s (if your relatives had or have the disease or if you are a veteran who had a TBI or has PTSD), know that the disease isn’t inevitable. When you take steps to nurture your brain health, you may be able to delay the disease or, at the very least, slow its progress. These are six things you can do to help you maintain your brain health:

1. Regular exercise
2. Healthy diet
3. Mental stimulation
4. Quality sleep
5. Stress management
6. An active social life

•Know and Claim Your Well- Earned Benefits. Depending on the level of care needed, the costs of managing one’s Alzheimer’s can be quite expensive. As a veteran, you may be eligible for certain benefits through VA, including some provisions for home-based primary care, nursing home services, and more. The VA program has a little known benefit called Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension that can be especially helpful in paying for in-home care.

Nearly 69% of veterans are unaware of the benefits available to them, meaning that veterans are paying more for senior care services than they should. Additionally, more than 1/3 of Americans over the age of 65 are wartime veterans or the spouses of wartime veterans, qualifying them for Aid & Attendance.

This Special Pension program provides benefits that can reduce the cost of care for veterans and surviving spouses who require assisted living services. The program can provide up to:

Single sick Veteran ~ $21,466 per year / $1,788 per month
Healthy Veteran with sick spouse ~ $16,851 per year / $1,404 per month
Married sick Veteran ~ $25,448 per year / $2,120 per month
Married, Both Veterans sick ~ $34,050 per year / $2,837 per month
Surviving Spouse – $13,794 per year / $1,149 per month

Are You or Your Loved One a Veteran?

If you or a loved one is a US veteran or the spouse of a veteran, you may be eligible for this Special Pension program and you could potentially save yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Here at the Farr Law Firm, we work with veterans and their spouses to evaluate whether they qualify for this Special Pension program and/or Medicaid, and we deal with all the paperwork. As an Accredited Attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and Certified Elder Law Attorney, I understand both the Veterans Special Pension program and the Medicaid program and the interaction between both benefit programs. Please call us to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Fairfax Veteran’s Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Veteran’s Attorney: 540-479-143
Rockville Veteran’s Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Veteran’s Attorney: 202-587-2797

P.S. Another benefit of being a veteran is a 10% discount off all services at the Farr Law Firm. We hope to see your family soon!

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.


  1. Charles Kurkjian says

    Thank you for this article.
    I am a Vietnam veteran and currently an Advocate for veterans to help them know more about their health, education and pension benefits.
    Continue to hold seminars and make available Veteran information for all vets.
    Thank you.

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