Are Iraq Vets Losing Healthcare Fight?
The recent conflicts in Iraq have produced many injured and disabled vets. 22,600 and counting vets have been wounded in the conflicts in Iraq or surrounding areas such as Afghanistan. The most common injury sustained is from blasts. Fifty-nine percent of those injured by blasts are diagnosed as traumatic brain injury or “TBI”, the signature wound of this war. This coupled with other issues of the war may be overwhelming the veteran’s healthcare system.
Sgt. Jason Peppers who fought in Iraq, came back with a traumatic brain injury, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and was blinded from an improvised explosive device. Dr. Susan Okie told Healthday, "He has sort of fallen through the cracks as far as medical care goes, but He has made, physically, a fairly remarkable recovery considering how badly he was wounded, but he has significant residual medical problems and symptoms."
Sgt. David Emme suffers from similar ailments. He too suffered from TBI and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his service in Iraq.
"There are probably more people like these two guys who have a combination of PTSD and TBI, and that's probably something the VA has not seen in such numbers before," Okie told Healthday. "Because of the body armor, there is a higher survivor rate of those with multiple wounds, so a bigger influx of those with severe injuries and maybe head injury as well as amputations or wounds to the limbs. The VA's obviously got a big burden of people recovering from severe injuries, more than in previous conflicts."
Despite the influx of multiple injuries to veterans, 80% of soldiers returning from Iraq injured have not enrolled as patients in the VA healthcare system. Both Emme and Peppers have neglected treatment since their release largely from the lack of knowledge of how to navigate the system.
"Everybody has tried to come up with a system that involves case managers to try to help them stay on top, but they're not using them," Okie told Healthday. "Theoretically, they could both get them simply by arranging it."
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