Veterans Roundup: Traumatic Brain Injury Impacts Long-Term Mental Health Risks, Consequences of Assumptions About PTS, Reality of Military Draft, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Brain-injured warfighters face elevated long-term mental health risks, study finds
Stars and Stripes, Wyatt Olson (@WyattWOlson)

A broad new study has found a clear link between even moderate to severe brain injury and mental health disorders such as PTSD. The report published in the journal Military Medicine examined almost 5,000 cases of traumatic injury experienced by members of all four service branches during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan from February 2002 to February 2011. By comparing the rates of mental health symptoms in the TBI related cases vs. non-brain injuries a clear pattern was found with 70.6% showing mental health issues. Previous studies and theories actually believed that a TBI somehow caused the less PTSD-like issues due to the brain damage causing a sort of protection. This study in its large scale is showing a clear case and goes to precisely what we have seen anecdotally with many of the brain injured veterans our clients support. Many people believe that the “signature wound” of our Post-9/11 wars are amputations since so many now survive what would have been deadly injuries in previous conflicts. But, this really doesn’t count the nearly invisible effects of traumatic brain injuries from blast shockwaves and even the weapons we use in combat. The injuries alter the brains of thousands of service members and the long term effects are still virtually unknown. Previous studies had only looked at short windows of time so the longer review of this one makes it clear that the mental health issues we face with this generation of veterans is a bill that hasn’t fully come due still. We will pay the price of these conflicts in treatments for the damage taken by our warfighters for decades to come still. Most insidiously though is the framing of this issue. They aren’t just talking about PTSD in this report. There are significant risks of other mental health problems from depression and worse. This goes directly to the issue of bad paper discharges as many of the injured don’t even know they have an issue and when caught in a cycle of mental health challenges often fall into disciplinary problems in the military and are kicked out of the service, meaning they won’t get the treatments they deserve. These injuries are like an onion and you keep peeling back the layers and see how they connect to so many other issues our veterans, service members and their families face. I hope the military is looking at these second and third order effects and taking them into account as they manage our sons and daughters. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms 

Omar claim of PTSD ‘offensive’ to US veterans, Indiana congressman says; Squad member responds
Fox News, David Aaro

As news of intense engagement with Iran took center stage this week, this story involving a comment made by Rep. Ilhan Omar hit the airwaves on Wednesday. Interestingly, and in fact paradoxically, Rep. Jim Banks tried to spin Omar’s comment about recent current events and the triggering nature they have on her PTSD as “offensive to our nation’s veterans.” Banks’ framing of this conversation is irresponsible and here is why: Politics aside, it is a fact that Rep. Ilhan Omar knows war at an intimate level given that she survived through it as a child. In fact, she is positioned to discuss the implications of armed conflict better than most members of Congress who, for the most part, have lived at a very safe distance from the devastation of war. Shaming and discrediting Omar for openly commenting about her experience with PTSD does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation and stigma around mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), in the U.S., about eight million people experience PTSD. Any traumatic experience can lead to PTSD, yet, we know that there are a few types of trauma that are the most common. Examples include sexual assault/abuse, natural disasters, accidents/injuries to self or other, or being in a life-threatening situation. If people such as Rep. Banks continue to frame PTSD as a military veteran-only issue, then not only is he using veterans as his political pawns but also spreading misinformation that leads to a failure of the recognition of symptoms and delays in treatment for all people, veterans included. NAMI states, “anyone can develop PTSD when they experience or witness a traumatic event—adult or child, man or woman. Anyone.” PTS is a very human condition that many people are likely to experience to some degree in their lifetime. We are just beginning to understand PTS and why it may affect some people more than others. Lastly, we need to stop making assumptions about who has and who doesn’t have PTSD. All this does is separate and divide by making some groups of people more deserving than others, and U.S. military veterans are certainly not the only people who have suffered from the ill-effects of war. – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms

From golf courses to commissaries: More details about access to new military benefits for 4.1 million extra people
Military Times, Karen Jowers (@karenjowers)

In the “largest patronage expansion in more than 60 years,” over four million military-connected people–including Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and veterans with service-related disabilities–were recently granted “shopping and recreation benefits” on military land, allowing access to benefits such as entertainment facilities and recreational lodging. However, many veterans with service-related disabilities still cannot access these benefits because “their income is too high” to qualify for required credentials. While officials have drawn up a “temporary solution” involving specific forms and veteran classifications, an affected veteran interviewed by Military Times reportedly stated that she was neither aware of the solution’s required documents nor able to access VA information about acquiring the form.

Newly separated veterans will now get phone calls from the VA to talk about benefits and support services
Military Times, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

The VA recently launched the Solid Start program in an effort to “ease transition issues” and prevent veteran suicides by informing recently separated troops of available VA benefits, as well as support services. The program starts off with calls to new veterans from VA officials and progresses to periodic check-ins during the transition process, specifically highlighting mental health resources for veterans accessible through the VA. The Solid Start program is the latest White House-backed effort to improve outreach to veterans during their initial transition period; research has reportedly shown that this period is “among the most dangerous for individuals battling mental health issues.”

“I Found Election Interference And No One Cared”: One US Veteran’s Fight To Protect His Compatriots Online
BuzzFeed News, Jane Lytvynenko (@JaneLytv)

Back in the November hearing “Hijacking Our Heroes: Exploiting Veterans Through Disinformation on Social Media,” Army veteran Kristofer Goldsmith presented a report two years in the making to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. This 200-page report on scams and fake accounts created to exploit and target veterans included instances involving election interference. “These imposters were, and still are, using the name and brand of our [Vietnam Veterans of America] congressionally chartered [organization] to spread actual fake news that is meant to inflame national divisions.”

US combat deaths in Afghanistan highest in years
The Hill, Alexander Bolton (@alexanderbolton)

With seventeen service members killed in Afghanistan last year, it marks the highest combat death rate in four years. Of the fallen, fourteen were from the Army and three were Marines. In 2018 and 2017, there were thirteen and eleven military fatalities, respectively.

People Are Panicking About Military Draft, Stop-Loss and IRR Activation. Here’s the Reality, Gina Harkins (@GinaAHarkins)

To aid the confusion surrounding the military draft following recent events causing “World War III” to trend on Twitter, checked with a military personnel expert and historian to find five realities surrounding the draft. They learned that Congress would have to pass a measure to bring the draft back, and the president would then need to sign it into law. It was also mentioned that the draft would be a last-resort option. When talking about a proposal to reinstate the draft, Richard Kohn, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who studies war and the military, said it would likely be “one of the most unpopular proposals presented to the Congress in many years.”

Fred Wellman

Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of veteran news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. Follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms

This entry was posted on Monday, January 13, 2020 9:35 am

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