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Veteran’s Brain Injury in War is Not Something New With Iraq

“Traumatic brain injury is a new injury unique to the war in the Iraq.” Not.

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


Brain injury is basically part and parcel of warfare, and TBI goes back to the club. As long as soldiers have been getting hit in the head -exposed to blasts, have had bullet wounds to the head – there have been veterans of those wars who have been disabled by brain injury.  This web page is here to help understand the nature and extent of veteran’s brain injury and to assist veteran’s in recovering disability benefits from the VA (United States Veteran’s Administration) when such benefits have been delayed or denied.

VA Institutionalized Minimization of Brain Injury

The headlined quote came from a reporter named Terri Gross of NPR, who was interviewing a major who suffered a brain injury in Iraq named Patrick Creed.  The idea that veteran’s brain injury originated with the Iraq war, would mean that the medical diagnosis/condition of traumatic brain injury is only 10 years old.  That, of course, is ridiculous. But it’s even more disturbing that the VA and the Department of Defense have almost institutionalized the concept that veteran’s brain injury didn’t exist before 10 years ago.

The first time a combatant hit an enemy over the head with a club, the goal was to cause injury to the brain.  That is warfare, at its most primitive level.  Likewise, one of the first things ever invented to protect a soldier was the helmet.

Shell Shock is Brain Injury

These labels that come out of military combat – “shell shock”, “hysteria”, “post-traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD) – get applied to civilian diagnosis.  When organic brain damage gets minimized in combat, then all survivors of brain injury get labeled as having a psychiatric disease.  The term “shell shock” is a term that came out of World War I.  For much of that war, combat was primarily  lobbing shells into the enemies trenches. Thus, neurologically injured soldiers had “shell shock.”  When I went back to the World War I literature on shell shock, I found that the entire basis of the diagnosis of psychiatric problem in these soldiers had completely ignored what would have clearly been an organic brain damage diagnosis today.

Why do we care what the military labeled soldiers who are now all dead?  Because the all of the subsequent wars have come with the same type of veteran’s brain injury.  Yet the Veteran’s Administration has failed to recognize not only that veteran’s brain injuries predated Iraq, but that the medical proof of a concussive type injury cannot be found in the records of a battle.  No EMT’s records are going to exist for the concussed soldier, with only the most seriously injured receiving any medical treatment or hospitalization.

TBI and PTSD Combined Equals Disability

Further, the nature of combat itself, makes for an intersection of the two most intransigent of battle injuries, TBI and PTSD. With those suffering both TBI and PTSD, the sum will undoubtedly exceed the total of the parts.  Someone who is undergoing the stress event which can cause PTSD will have considerably more vulnerability to the organic injury of TBI.  Likewise, someone who is undergoing the confusion, maladaptation of TBI, will be that much more prone to be negatively impacted by the stress that can cause PTSD.

What is needed is not only to integrate what we are learning about veteran’s brain injury to civilian life, but vice versa. We have known for over 20 years that the definition of concussion should include injuries that do not involve loss of consciousness.  If a football player must be removed from play for his own safety because he is showing signs of dysfunction related to a concussion, then a soldier whose has far more to lose both for himself and his team mates, must also have his concussion taken seriously.

In these pages, we will not only discuss the history of veteran’s brain injury, but talk about what a veteran with a brain injury does to recover, to adapt, to both civilian and military life. We will further discuss the specific disability benefit programs within for veteran’s brain injury.

For Help with Filing for your VA Disability Benefits, Click Here.

For Information on the Veterans Administration Polytrauma System of Care/Traumatic Brain Injury

Next: The Nightmare of a Combat Brain Injury