Eight years since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, the United States is faced with a serious problem: thousands of soldiers and veterans returning from war with traumatic brain injuries. While those with serious brain injuries often get the help they need quickly, many thousands more who suffer from less serious head injuries are left in the lurch, despite their serious need for medical assistance, rehabilitation, and ongoing therapy.
One example is veteran Adam Pittman is one of an estimated 30,000 recent soldiers to come home from overseas with a brain injury. During his three tours in Iraq, the North Carolina US veteran was rocked multiple times from makeshift bombs, including one incident in which the vehicle he was in rode over an IED.
Now home, Pittman suffers with concentration troubles, memory problems, and anger management issues. While he believes his personality changes and cognition issues are directly related to his brain injury, he is having a very difficult time receiving disability benefits from the Veterans Administration. Unfortunately, it is difficult to prove a somewhat mild brain injury and unfortunately, some believe that brain injuries do not need that amount of medical treatment required to make a soldier’s life more tolerable in the wake of their accident. Some soldiers are waiting upwards of a year for benefits, while others don’t receive them at all. Especially those without close family members fail to navigate the system and receive the medical care they need.
While the VA is working to create better testing and programs for the onslaught of veterans with traumatic brain injuries, those who are struggling now to get better don’t think change is happening fast enough.