Improvements in body armor and the insurgency’s reliance on explosives have contributed to a new “signature wound” of the Iraq war — brain trauma. In USA Today:
Known as traumatic brain injury, or TBI, the wound is of the sort that many soldiers in previous wars never lived long enough to suffer. The explosions often cause brain damage similar to “shaken-baby syndrome,” says Warren Lux, a neurologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
“You’ve got great body armor on, and you don’t die,” says Louis French, a neuropsychologist at Walter Reed. “But there’s a whole other set of possible consequences. It’s sort of like when they started putting airbags in cars and started seeing all these orthopedic injuries.”
Since the injury is not visible, it is harder to detect, though when tested, high percentages of wounded soldiers are proving to have been affected.
Unfortunately these are the type of people the Republicans are apt to forget, especially a year or so down the road. As we’ve noted, the Bush administration’s lip service to caring for veterans hasn’t translated into the requisite commitment to actually fund their health care. How many of the 213,000 veterans Bush plans to push out of the VA health care system will have this type of injury?
Fewer deaths may have made the political consequences of Bush’s Iraq misadventure survivable, and sadly may result in a whole class of veterans neglected on their return.