Objectives: To examine the health status of elderly veteran enrollees, stratified by age group, and compare with nonveteran populations.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Participants: A total of 1,406,049 veteran enrollees were surveyed, and 887,775 returned the questionnaire (63.1%). Of these, 663,729 (74%) were aged 65 and older.
Measurements: Patient demographics, comorbid conditions, and health status, which was assessed using the Veterans 36-item short form (SF-36), a reliable and valid measure of health-related quality of life (HRQoL).
Results: Elderly veteran enrollees are a group with poor health status across all scales of the Veterans SF-36. Significant decline in HRQoL was found in patients grouped by increasing age (65–74, 75–84, and ≥85). Of the Veterans SF-36 scales, the role physical and role emotional scales and physical functioning presented the largest decrements by age group. The elderly veteran enrollees had poorer health status than older people enrolled in Medicare managed care, ranging from 0.5 to 1 standard deviations worse.
Conclusion: Elderly veteran enrollees have substantial disease burden, as reflected by major impairments across multiple dimensions of HRQoL. These findings bear important implications for use of services, suggesting that the Veterans Health Administration will require considerable resources to provide care for its aging population.