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10 to 20 percent of today's veterans suffered brain injuries

In past wars involving American armed forces, those who suffered serious injuries often died in battle. In the two most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, advances in medical treatments and technologies are credited with saving the lives of thousands of men and women who would otherwise have died as a result of injuries caused by improvised explosive devices and mortar attacks.

Upon returning home, the physical injuries that many veterans suffered are obvious. Amputation injuries along with fractured and shattered bones are among some of the most common injuries suffered by modern U.S. veterans. While prosthesis can be fitted and bones eventually heal, it's often the injuries that aren't visible or readily apparent that are the most devastating.

According to the advocacy and support group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), an estimated 10 to 20 percent of men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan return home with a traumatic brain injury. In many cases, a veteran may initially not be aware they suffered a TBI and the TBIs of many veterans remain undiagnosed.

In 2005, after serving one month in Iraq, a husband and father was seriously injured. As the man's physical wounds healed he noticed he experienced difficulty remembering things and controlling his temper. Two years later, he was finally diagnosed with a TBI as well as post traumatic stress disorder. Since that time, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans diagnosed with TBIs.

A TBI can have devastating side effects and veterans who suffered a TBI may qualify to receive disability benefits. Symptoms commonly experienced by individuals who have suffered a TBI include trouble sleeping, trouble controlling one's temper or impulses and personality changes. In the case of many veterans, symptoms may mimic or be exacerbated by those commonly attributed to PTSD.

In an effort to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of TBIs among U.S. veterans, a bill known as the Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers Act is currently being considered by a congressional committee. The proposed legislation would mandate that all active service members undergo mental health assessments both prior to and post deployment.

Source: Mansfield News Journal, "Benefit will help veterans with brain injuries," Kaitlin Durbin, May 9, 2014

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