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Health Services Research & Development

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HSR&D In Progress

September 2020

In This Issue: How Research Helps Combat COVID-19
» Table of Contents

Veterans’ Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Feature Article

Takeaway:Study results will help identify Veteran-specific vulnerabilities and difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating the enhancement of care for Veterans over the duration of the pandemic and during potential future COVID-19 waves. 

COVID-19 continues to upend life across the globe and continues to have an untold effect on Americans’ lives. Apart from the social and medical concerns related to this pandemic, Veterans also deal with many mental and emotional challenges post-deployment, making COVID-19-related stressors such as isolation and emotional coping especially difficult. While healthcare systems are currently overwhelmed by the mortality and morbidity of COVID-19, they also will soon need to address the impact of the pandemic on chronic illness and mental health. Common challenges Veterans face that may exacerbate COVID-19 outcomes include:

  • Interpersonal issues, such as adjusting to changed relationships and troublesome interactions;
  • Psychological difficulties that can include anxiety, PTSD, existential concerns, irritation and anger, depression and suicidal ideation, and posttraumatic symptoms; and
  • Physical/behavior problems that can include coping with physical injuries, sleep disturbances, substance misuse, readjusting to less structure, and risk-taking behaviors.

This ongoing HSR&D funded study (May 2020 – March 2021) seeks to identify challenges and facilitators of Veterans engaging in physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Investigators also will identify Veterans' access to medical care within and outside VA during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically their experience with telehealth and non-COVID-19-related care. In addition, the impact of social isolation on loneliness and emotional coping during the COVID-19 pandemic will be assessed.


Investigators will survey 1,000 Veterans via the Internet. Participants will complete three surveys, each one month apart. Primary outcome measures include: challenges and facilitators of physical distancing, physical distancing behavior, healthcare access, telehealth experiences, and mental health (e.g., loneliness, anxiety, depression, coping, substance abuse). Secondary outcome measures include: social support, COVID-19 risk perceptions, attitude toward government response to the pandemic, and intentions for future vaccinations for COVID-19. Investigators also will examine how the following characteristics impact outcomes: patient demographics, health literacy, subjective numeracy, general health, self-reported comorbidity, use of VA healthcare, trust in healthcare, and trust in science.


None at this time.

Anticipated Impact

Addressing the difficulties that Veterans experience when confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic will assist VA in identifying Veteran-specific vulnerabilities and allow VA to enhance care for this population over the duration of the pandemic and during possible future COVID-19 waves.

Principal Investigator: Angela Fagerlin, PhD, is part of HSR&D’s Informatics, Decision-Enhancement and Analytic Sciences Center (IDEAS) in Salt Lake City, UT.


None at this time.

View study abstract

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