Monday, November 26, 2007

 

Military Cover-up of the Day

At least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries....

The data ... show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon's official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.

—Gregg Zoroya reporting in "20,000 vets' brain injuries not listed in Pentagon tally"

I refer to this as a "cover-up" not only because the military and VA are clearly fudging the statistics but also because USA Today was able to obtain the data from some locales only through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Rep. Bill Pascrell, founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, estimates that "more than 150,000 troops may have suffered head injuries in combat."

Explosions may cause concussions without leaving visible scars, so it's inevitable that some injured soldiers will not be immediately diagnosed, or diagnosed at all. But this may be a bigger factor in the undercount—

Soldiers and Marines whose wounds were discovered after they left Iraq are not added to the official casualty list, says Army Col. Robert Labutta, a neurologist and brain injury consultant for the Pentagon.

This recalls a practice the Pentagon developed during the Vietnam War for handling reports that might swell statistics on the dimension of the military's drug epidemic at the time. If just before returning to the U.S. a soldier self-reported a drug problem—as many had developed—the soldier would be held back for "further evaluation" and/or treatment before being allowed to return home. Naturally there were fewer reports of drug problems.

I wouldn't be surprised if there is a similar disincentive to report problems incident to brain injury, since the technique is already in use with soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Luis Sinca recently reported

Each Marine received a questionnaire. Were they having trouble sleeping? Did they have thoughts of suicide? Everybody knew the drill. Answer yes and be evaluated further. Say no and go home.

As with PTSD, the costs of treatment plus, in many cases, disability payments will be enormous. Just another "untold" cost of the war.

Related posts
A war we can't afford to win (1/24/07)
Statistic of the Day: Veteran suicides (11/17/07)

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