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The invisible costs of war

KALWNews.org

By Rosa Ramirez

American troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury that is sometimes left undiagnosed, and often under counted, when estimating the cost of the wars.

About 18.5 percent of soldiers who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have PTSD and 19.5 percent have reported experiencing symptoms of traumatic brain injury, according to a study titled "The Invisible Wounds of War" by the RAND Corporation, a non-profit research group based in Santa Monica. RAND estimates that roughly half of those who need treatment seek it

The Bay Citizen reports that in Northern California, more than 23,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have sought help.

Such illnesses affect the sufferer's mood, thoughts, and behavior, which can be invisible to health care providers, friends and family members.

Results from studies that have tried to tally the number of soldiers suffering from PTSD, brain injury or depression vary widely, RAND has found. Much of the mental health specialty care for PTSD or brain injury are concentrated in urban areas, leaving many in rural areas without immediate access. Military service members are also reluctant to seek out mental health care, according to RAND.

Some of the key findings:

19.5 percent said they a probable traumatic brain injury during deployment.

14 percent of soldiers meet the criteria for depression.

About 7 percent meet the criteria for a mental health problem.

Some of the major barriers to seeking health care include that the medication that can help has too many side effects, soldiers believe that seeking mental health care could harm their career, or they feel their family or friends could be more helpful than a health care provider.

The VA medical center in Martinez is at the forefront of researching what traumatic brain injury looks like and how it acts in the brain, how it affects a soldier's ability to control behavior and how to distinguish it from the PTSD that veterans suffer, according to the Contra Costa Times.

Politicians are taking notice that something has to be done. 

On May 5, the President signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which provides veterans' caregivers with training, counseling and supportive services; expands the VA's authority to recruit and retain high-quality health care providers; and gives travel reimbursements for veterans commuting from rural areas to get health care services.


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