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NIH Biomedical Research for Veterans and Servicemembers

In addition to supporting veterans employed by NIH, NIH funds a wide range of biomedical research related to veterans, current military members and their families. This includes research on traumatic brain injury, military families, infectious diseases and post-traumatic stress. Highlights of this research can be found below.

Military Families

Life in military families can be especially tough, with one or both parents leaving for extended amounts of time on deployments overseas. NIH has funded research on the impact of parental deployment and reunification on child and family functioning. These studies target the behavior and emotional functioning of children and research ways to give parents the correct resources to enhance positive parenting practices and mitigate the effects of deployment on children. With the support of NIH-funded research, further resources for helping military members with children can be identified.

Infectious Diseases and Biodefense

The health and well-being of servicemembers and their families are enhanced by the findings that emerge from basic and clinical research on infectious and immunologic diseases. One of the biggest NIH efforts in this area is the collaboration with the Department of Defense’s Uniformed Services University to help fund the Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program (IDCRP). IDCRP’s research focus areas include: trauma/combat-related infections, acute respiratory infections, operational deployment/travel-associated infections, biodefense/emerging infectious diseases, skin and soft tissue infections, HIV/AIDS, and sexually transmitted infections.

NIH has a long-standing collaboration with the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) and its multiple components, including the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). These collaborations enhance and facilitate research on multiple emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases of interest to both agencies, such as basic research on pathogenesis and cellular immunity; developing vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics; and basic and clinical research on HIV/AIDS. NIH will continue supporting research in the areas of infectious diseases and biodefense in order to protect military members who may be exposed to them while defending our country.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury, also known as TBI, has become a serious concern in recent years due to the high rates of mild TBI and concussions among military members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. NIH supports extensive research on TBI and collaborates with the Department of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other agencies. This includes a partnership with the DoD in building a central Federal Interagency Traumatic Brain Injury Research (FITBIR) database on TBI studies.

In another DoD partnership, NIH worked with the Uniformed Services University to establish the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM) in order to bring together the expertise of clinicians and scientists across disciplines to catalyze innovative approaches to TBI research. In a long-term, natural history study being conducted by NIH, researchers hope to contribute to the understanding of the long-term consequences of TBI and use the information gained as the basis for future research. NIH has identified the long-term consequences of TBI as an area that requires further study and is focusing efforts on supporting and conducting the research necessary in order to aid military members and veterans who are suffering from this condition.

Post - Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that affects more than 7 million adults in the U.S. each year but is most commonly recognized as affecting service members who have been in a combat zone. PTSD develops in only a minority of people of all ages who have witnessed or lived through a dangerous event, experienced the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, or when a friend or family member experiences danger or is harmed. NIH funds research in order to improve treatment of PTSD and to discover ways to prevent PTSD. NIH-funded scientists have, for example, examined how fear is linked to memory formation and retrieval and have had success in helping patients cope with fear memories.

With the basis of knowledge gathered over the last decade on the mental and biological foundations of PTSD, NIH is focusing its support on developing better ways to predict who may develop PTSD, developing preventive interventions, and improving current treatments. PTSD is a common disorder that can be seriously disruptive to a military member’s daily life. NIH is working hard to ensure the knowledge base about PTSD continues to grow, new therapies are developed, and ways to increase the resiliency of military members and prevent the manifestation of PTSD are discovered.

This page last reviewed on February 26, 2018

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