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War Veterans and Traumatic Brain Injury

Aug 19, 2008
Each year the number of U.S. veterans increases as soldiers returning from America's most recent wars come home. However, as the survivors are welcomed home after pursuing a dutiful career serving their country, a new generation of men and women suffering from mild- to severe-traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are greeted with battled medical budgets and flawed TBI technologies, which don't provide the necessary services and treatments required to improve their newly developed disabilities.

With an average of 1.4 million Americans undergoing some form of TBI, the number of scientists and researchers striving to cure these individuals should be ever increasing, however, dwindling budgets continue to compress and squeeze war-related brain injury funding. In 2006, the U.S. House and Senate slashed the allocated funding for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) in half from the previous year.

Traumatic brain injury has been deemed the "signature" injury of the Iraq war, according to military doctors and experts. It is imperative for struggling soldiers to find assistance with their TBI-related disability.

What is TBI?

Traumatic brain injury is defined as an injury that occurs after an abrupt trauma causes damage to the brain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). War-related TBI can occur in many ways and individuals suffering from this and related side effects will find symptoms vary on a case-by-case diagnosis.

Researchers and scientists are, however, finding several repetitive conditions and symptoms among TBI victims. The common signs and symptoms of these war-related conditions are as followed, according to a studies published in the medical journals of Neuropsychology and Brain Injury:

* cognitive issues *decreased attention span, including focused, selective and sustained attention problems *language difficulties

* lack of motivation *inability to efficiently process information

* irritability *depression and anxiety

* increased fatigue *headaches *memory loss or disturbance

* behavioral issues

* disrupted sleep

* post traumatic stress disorder

In May 2006, the co-founder of the DVBIC testified to a Senate subcommittee that while "body armor may save troops caught in blasts it leaves many with brain damage," according to a USA Today news report. Additionally, the article cited several disturbing statistics on the state of TBI and war veterans.

* 10 percent of all troops in Iraq suffer from concussions during combat. * 20 percent of all frontline infantry troops suffer from concussions during combat.

*Scientists believe the Pentagon must screen all troops returning from Iraq.

*The Pentagon has declined screenings for all returning troops and only screen a small population of soldiers.

*If left untreated or untested, multiple head injuries and concussions can cause permanent brain injury.

Also, several equally disturbing statistics have been reported from several specialized journals including Brain Injury, Internal Medicine, Soldiers Magazine, MIT's Technology Review and Perspectives in Psychiatric Care. These statistics area as follow:

*Nearly 25 percent of all military veterans of the Iraq war are diagnosed with a mental illness.

* War-related TBI patients often manifest distinct personality changes.

* Of the 35,000 soldiers screened for TBI, approximately 11 percent have had symptoms of mild TBI.

* No treatments currently exist to cure long-lasting symptoms of TBI.

Flawed Brain Injury Technology

Unfortunately, as budgets are cut, the quality of care and technology also decreases. Most recently the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed nine Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and found that the TBI-screening test's validity and reliability may be flawed.

Additionally, the report found that soldiers with TBI may be receiving inadequate or unnecessary care for their brain injuries, according to an Associated Press article from January 2008. The report found that:

* Although the VA has implemented TBI screening tools, the validity and reliability of the tool has not yet been established.

* The VA has implemented a protocol to ensure soldiers testing positive for TBI are adequately treated; however, many of the VA's medical facilities either did not follow the protocol or had difficulty doing so.

* Culturally, the VA has found that Iraq veterans feel the VA and its facilities cater to elderly veterans and do not want to treat young veterans.

* The VA is struggling with poor rural access to medical centers as well as poor turnout rates for injured vets who in some cases must drive 100 miles plus to reach a nearby VA hospital.

Living With TBI

Veterans who are currently living with TBI will find that not only does TBI affect them, but the ripple effect among an injured veteran's family and friends is quite extensive. There are an array of clinical trials that a TBI victim can become involved in to improve the living conditions as well as to treat the symptoms of TBI. Some of these clinical trials can be found through the following organizations Web sites:

* National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke - Brain Resources and Information Network (BRAIN)

* Acoustic Neuroma Association Brain Trauma Foundation

* Brain Injury Association of America Family Caregiver Alliance/National Center on Caregiving National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)

* National Stroke Association

* National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)

Finding Brain Injury Assistance

There are several organizations available to offer assistance specifically to those with war-related ailments. The following are several of the leading organizations/hospitals:

* Walter Reed Army Medical Center Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center

* Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury

* National Intrepid Center of Excellence Deployment Health Clinical Center

*Center for Study of Traumatic Stress Center for Deployment Psychology

* The Department of Defense (DoD) also offers a search component through their Web site to assist veterans in finding a veteran hospital in their geographic area.

Additionally, individuals enduring the pain of a war-related brain injury are encouraged to locate an experienced traumatic brain injury lawyer who can provide assistance with developing a brain injury lawsuit. Because of the nature of these injuries, there should be no reason why monetary compensation is not rewarded to an injured party.

TBI medical bills can be extremely expensive, and this potential for awarded compensation can provide relief from the stress associated with medical expenses.
About the Author
Learn more about traumatic brain injury and how it affects war veterans at http://brain-injury.legalview.com/. Or use the LegalView homepage at http://www.LegalView.com and research information on the latest medical controversies such as the Zimmer Durom cup defects or the Viapro recall.
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