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How Hepatitis C Affects Veterans and How Veterans Can Get Treatment

How Hepatitis C Affects Veterans and How Veterans Can Get Treatment

Veterans are considered a high-risk group for having hepatitis C. There are various reasons why veterans may be at an increased risk of having the virus, and different ways individuals in this group can seek treatment if they are affected.

The connection between hepatitis C and veterans

Research suggests that veterans receiving care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA) are more than twice as likely to have hepatitis C when compared to the general population.1-4 However, not all veterans receive care through the VA, and many veterans have not been tested for hepatitis C. This means that the number of veterans with hep C may be even larger than previously thought.

The reasons why the veteran population has a higher prevalence of hepatitis C are not well understood. However, some theories on veterans’ increased exposure to the virus include:2,3

  • Exposure to blood during combat
  • Receiving transfusions before blood products were screened for hepatitis C
  • Unsafe immunization techniques
  • Large battle wounds

More research is needed to understand why veterans have a higher risk of hep C than the general population

Baby boomers

The largest group affected by hepatitis C is the baby boomer generation, which includes people born between 1945 and 1965. Baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than any other generation because between 1945 and 1965, the virus was not well understood, and preventative measures were not regularly taken. Coincidentally, this generation is a group in which many veterans served in heavy combat wars, such as the Vietnam War, and may have been exposed to infected blood.2,3,5

The Veterans Health Administration

Because of veterans’ increased risk of hep C, the VA has made it a priority to perform hep C screenings on as many veterans as possible who belong to this age group. In fact, the VA has the highest rate of this type of screening in the United States (when compared to any other large health care system): Nearly 84% of veterans in this group had been tested for hepatitis C.6 As a result of this increased awareness, the VA has treated more veterans than any other health care system in the U.S.6

Who does the VA treat?

As of mid-2018, the VA has announced that all veterans in VA care who have hepatitis C are eligible for treatment. In order to qualify for VA care, many veterans will first see their primary care provider, who will then refer them to their local VA. Once a veteran establishes care with their VA, VA staff will work to schedule appointments and coordinate treatment. Once a definitive diagnosis of hepatitis C is made by VA staff, the veteran is able to receive treatment through the VA.

The VA has treated over 110,000 individuals with oral antivirals between 2014 to 2018. These antivirals are prescribed based on individual health needs, not based cost or insurance issues.6

Another unique aspect of treatment through the VA is that they do not require a liver biopsy prior to treatment. There are also no minimum requirements when it comes to recent use of alcohol or drugs. Once an individual begins treatment through the VA, they are followed in the VA’s National Hepatitis C Clinical Case Registry. Despite efforts to screen and treat as many veterans as possible for hepatitis C, the VA has estimated that 15,000-20,000 veterans under VA care are still awaiting treatment or unable to complete treatment. Efforts are ongoing to increase the number of those starting and completing treatment, as well as to increase the number of veterans treated who are currently undiagnosed or outside of VA care.6

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Best LA, Ioannou GN. Prevalence and treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection in the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Epidemiologic Reviews. 1 Jan 2015; 37(1), 131-143. Available from: Accessed October 18, 2018.
  2. Dominitz JA, Boyko EJ, Koepsell TD, et al. Elevated prevalence of hepatitis C infection in users of United States veterans medical centers. Viral Hepatitis. 23 Dec 2004; 41(1). Available from: Accessed October 18, 2018.
  3. Hepatitis C: An Epidemic Among U.S. Veterans. Veterans Health Council. Accessed October 18, 2018.
  4. Viral Hepatitis: Epidemiology of Hepatitis C. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
  5. Accessed October 18, 2018.
  6. Backus LI, Belperio PS, Loomis TP. Hepatitis C virus screening and prevalence among US veterans in Department of Veterans Affairs care. JAMA Intern Med. 2013; 173(16), 1549-52. Available from: Accessed October 18, 2018.
  7. Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Published August 2018. Accessed October 18, 2018.


  • Raymond
    11 months ago

    This is where I got my therapy. 12 weeks and a follow up 6 months later to make sure the drugs killed the bug.

  • Raymond
    1 year ago

    Had it for 40 years got a transplant and said transplant lasted 10 years then Harvoni came out just in time because I was stage 4 w/donor liver and was ready to expire. I thank my upper being ,guardian angel for I was saved twice. Am doing well and am not disciplined with my diet or exercise. Am not working and the Hep-C caused lots of secondary damage to my body. I hope all of you out there with this dragon get the right treatment .Harvoni and Ribavirin, 12 weeks therapy and side effects are being tired . I have cleared the virus and got a call from my provider that I was cured. 5 years cured. Jet air guns or surgery was my culprit.

  • Verwolf
    12 months ago

    I believe I was infected by air guns. I also think it can be traced back to through your military medical records. Although it’s not in the va’s interest to do I it.
    I was treated in 2012 by the va with bocepivair ribivirian and interferon . 32 pills a day for 8 months . It almost killed me .

  • Raymond
    11 months ago

    I put in a claim for the jet air guns but if you used IV drugs after you came home from Nam they will award your claim. 10-30% disability. You need a nexus to prove your claim.If you had no other risk factors while in service you will win. I had 3,prostitutes,surgery and jet air guns. You could have gotten from sharing razors and from the barber. Tooth brushes also. Glad to hear you cleared the virus. Ray

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