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Defense Department Memo Reveals Traumatic Brain Injury Now Signature Injury of Iraq War, Yet is Under-diagnosed and Poorly Treated

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According to a previously undisclosed Defense Department memorandum obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by USA Today: Military Prodded on Traumatic Brain Injuries, the Pentagon lacks a comprehensive plan to identify and treat tens of thousands of troops who may suffer from traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the Iraq War. The Memo faulted the Pentagon’s ability to spot mild to moderate traumatic brain injury cases, noting that these cases, while hard to spot, can limit mental performance and cause permanent damage. Of course, these conclusions have been widely known in the medical community for decades.

The Memo also said the Pentagon should take the lead in “tackling the issue of TBI given our current wartime challenges.” [e.g., blast injuries from IEDs] “There remains a need to better understand the unique characteristics of blast-associated TBI and to reduce the risk and complications from mild or moderate forms of brain injury.” Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, called the panel’s findings “outrageous.” USA reported that Senator Murray said: “Four years into the war and we still don’t have a system wide plan.” A brain injury expert, Janice Ruoff, summed up the problem as follows: “Without a comprehensive approach, it is left to family members to notice something mentally wrong with a loved one back from combat.” Regardless of what one thinks about the war, our troops deserve the best care our country has to offer. The Centers for Disease Control reported twenty years ago on the phenomenon that the Pentagon is just now discovering. Severe brain injuries are relatively easy to diagnose. Soldiers who suffer mild to moderate brain injuries, which can be permanent, deserve to have those injuries correctly diagnosed and treated. The Bob Woodruff report aired on ABC revealed that these soldiers are simply being sent to their local VA hospitals which are poorly equiped to diagnose and treat TBI.