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Traumatic Brain Injuries in Veterans

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Servicemen and women risk their lives every day to keep us safe; they fight and don’t give up. For that, we are thankful. Unfortunately, while keeping our country safe, many are exposed to physical, emotional and mental hardships, which make their return home tough. Common combat injuries include second- and third-degree burns, broken bones, shrapnel wounds, spinal cord injuries and nerve damage, paralysis, loss of sight and hearing, PTSD, limb loss and traumatic brain injuries. The true cost of war is much larger than any figures provided by the Department of Defense, which only includes those wounded in action and completely discounts veterans’ suffering from “non-hostile injuries” such as respiratory problems due to toxic dust exposure, or suicide attempts. Traumatic brain injury is a substantial issue among returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and since 2000, the Department of Defense reported that over 383,000 veterans were diagnosed with the disease.

Such is the case for veteran Melissa Dengan. 27 years ago, an attack on the U.S Military in the Middle East left Melissa with severe head trauma, leaving her unconscious for five days. Melissa was a Captain when she left the military and it took her decades to get back on her feet and, soon after, decided to go back to school to pursue a Nursing degree. While this is something she chose to do, it was not easy for her. Melissa faced a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms including depression and anxiety, problems concentrating, remembering, and learning, which made it very difficult to succeed and, unfortunately, put a stop to her schooling.  Melissa took part in group therapy, but it only helped her with the psychiatric symptoms, and couldn’t find anything that would help her combat her cognitive symptoms, such as her short-term memory, which only got worse with time. Her short-term memory was left completely fractured, even causing a kitchen fire after forgetting that she left the stove on.

There has to be something to help Melissa, now 63, and other veterans who suffer from the same illnesses. Recently, The Pentagon financed a study found promise in a specific form of computer-based brain training. Designed to help improve cognitive performances in Veterans, this program, called BrainHQ, is the first of its kind and many were hopeful. Unfortunately, BrainHQ didn’t work as successfully as it intended and while it did raise Veteran’s scores on long- and short-term memory and functions controlled by their frontal cortex (ability to plan their day), it did not carry over into every-day task such as reading and recalling ingredients on labels or names in a phone book.

It is estimated that 15% of veterans who have suffered from mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) never really recovered. It has been proven that 314,000 members who served in the armed forces in the Middle East have returned back to the United States with lifelong cognitive impairments. Veterans suffer a lot of loss after they complete active duty and it is important to keep them and the diseases in which they suffer with in the forefront. With continued research and development underway, BrainHQ and others are hopeful, and so are we.

If you or a loved one needs assistance with receiving care through the VA following a combat-related injury, please contact the experienced lawyers at Turley, Redmond, Rosasco, and Rosasco at 855-280-7586 for a free no-obligation consultation.

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