David N. Damick
BRAIN INJURIES FROM MILITARY SERVICE CONTINUE LONG AFTER
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can be hidden. It can be missed until the effects turn up much later, and then the cause of such symptoms can be confused. The Pentagon announced recently that the number of U.S. service members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries from a single missile barrage in Iraq has shot up to more than 100. Ain al-Asad air base was struck by a barrage of Iranian missiles in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed atop Iranian commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. But the effects on our troops are still being uncovered, as more troops suffer the after effects of the Iranian ballistic missile attack early last month in Iraq.
The latest announced total is 109 military members who have been treated for mild TBI, which is significant even more so because it is a huge increase over the 64 reported a little over a week ago. The number of injuries has been steadily increasing since the Pentagon began releasing data on the injuries about a week after the Jan. 8 attack at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq.
The AP reported that Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it’s possible, in some cases, that symptoms of TBI from the Iranian missile attack won’t become apparent for a year or two. He said the Army is in the early stages of diagnosis and therapy for the troops. Recently, a Pentagon press secretary spoke of the medical professionals who have enabled “nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty.”
No one spoke of the long term care and problems that troops with TBI - diagnosed or not - will more likely than not experience after their service. Whether a soldier can return to duty or not is simply not a measure of the effect even a mild brain injury can have on their ability to maintain a job, or even maintain their family and relationships down the road. After service, the job of providing care for brain injuries and PTSD from trauma falls to the Veterans Administration. Often, that care falls far short of what veterans deserve. More importantly, VA care for this difficult problem often falls far short of what the veteran needs.
When the VA does not fulfill the promise we made to our troops and their families- to take care of them when they are struck by the hidden problems of TBIs or severe PTSD - that is where we get involved. Bad medical care, or careless medical care, can cause further injury, and injury to those around the veteran. If the VA has caused more harm, we may be able to help. There is nothing easy about the problem, nor our approach to legal action to help. Where we can make it better, it is worth whatever effort it takes.