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Future Imperative

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Post-Deployment, 49% of Guard, 38% of Army, 31% of Marines Have Brain Damage, PTSD, etc - A Question of Math

A blue-ribbon Pentagon task force reported this July that about 38% of soldiers, 31% of Marines and 49% of the National Guard have 'psychological conditions' such as traumatic brain injury (brain damage) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. These numbers were expected to grow because of repeated and extended deployments.

I'd like everyone reading this to lay their politics and personal opinions aside for a moment, and ask themselves: How long is it practically possible to maintain any sort of deployment like the one we have in the combined Iraq and Afghan theaters given this rate of mental injury, in combination with the physical wounds, maiming and actual deaths our troops are also suffering?

Believe it or not, I don't have an answer to that question.

And quite seriously, no matter how strongly you feel about this issue, or how dispassionately you look at these Middle Eastern conflicts, an accurate estimate will be invaluable in anticipating just what direction the Iraq War will go in over the next several months. The 'facts on the ground' can override any other consideration.

Right now, I haven't the foggiest idea. Does the tipping point mean over half of all our ground troops suffering from brain damage, PTSD and serious or crippling physical injuries? Two thirds? More? And when do we get to that particular point? But again, laying politics aside, I would really like to hear everyone's best assessment. Please let me know what you think.

Thank you.

Future Imperative


Blogger Kathie Costos said...

Thank you for posting about PTSD. You posted a great question. The risk of developing PTSD is on average, from any kind of trauma, one out of three. This comes in different degrees. Yet the redeployments raise the risk of developing PTSD by 50%. As bad as the reported rates are, they are no where close to reality. You have to keep in mind several things;
There have been over 22,000 "personality disorder" discharges. These men and women are not counted in the PTSD figures.

There is a backlog of VA claims of 600,000. Although not all are seeking compensation for PTSD or TBI, the majority are. These claims are harder to prove. Until the VA rates them, they are not counted. It is the same with the DOD. No rating, not counted.

With the numbers we are seeing now, there is also the fact that many will only experience mild PTSD, able to function, until they are exposed to another traumatic event, a secondary stressor, which sends their PTSD out of control.

Some will end up years later seeking help for PTSD. The VA is seeing veterans from the Gulf War, Vietnam and Korea, even WWII, suddenly needing help for PTSD. Most do have the excuse they had no clue what was wrong with them.

With Vietnam, the majority did one, one year tour, yet that produced 500,000 PTSD wounded by 1978. In the next few years, the real PTSD figures will probably reach 700,000 from Iraq and Afghanistan. Although there were more soldiers in Vietnam, the redeployments are causing most of the increased rates of PTSD because of the re-exposures.

The other thing to keep in mind is that PTSD strikes with one natural disaster, as with the people of New Orleans with Katrina and tornadoes, one violent crime, as with 9-11 and New York or a rape. Once in a lifetime event, that can change the rest of a life. With police, firemen and emergency responders, they are exposed to traumatic events often, which makes their PTSD risk higher than the general population, yet very little is done to raise awareness for them. With the military deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as past combats, their exposure to traumatic events is almost a daily occurrence.

Last but certainly not least is that it also needs to be part of the discussion of PTSD that it does not just require a life threatening event. There are men and women who are not in "combat" roles. They will go to recover military vehicles and helicopters, finding the remains of fallen comrades, scattered pieces of bodies and this can cause PTSD as well.

In closing, as bad as we think PTSD is, it is nowhere close to what it really is. No one responsible for planning any of this took the warnings and historical statistics seriously enough to plan for any of the wounded. As PTSD is a silent killer often ignored assuming they will "just get over it" there is also TBI, again often ignored. The glimmer of light now is the net and the fact there are so many talking about PTSD now. The more we talk about it, the more that will be done and the stigma will be eliminated. Time is the enemy of those with PTSD. The sooner they seek help, the better the recovery and the better their futures will be. I've been doing this for twenty five years and people like me all over the country were screaming this country needed to get ready for what was to come, but no one listened. Military suicides are higher as a result. They are being redeployed even when diagnosed with PTSD, receiving medications but no therapy and exposed to even more trauma.

September 11, 2007 8:30 AM  
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