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Coming Home: Brain Injured And Ignored

NPR and ProPublica join forces for an excellent series on soldiers with traumatic brain injuries and the egregious treatment they receive back home: either not being diagnosed properly, or told their injuries are "psychological." Reporters Christian Miller and Daniel Zwerdling write:

At Fort Bliss, we found that even soldiers who are diagnosed with such injuries often do not receive the treatment they need.

Most specialists say it is critical for patients who show lingering effects from head trauma to get intensive therapy as soon as possible. In the civilian world, such therapy is increasingly seen as the best way to minimize permanent damage, helping to retrain the mind to compensate for deficits.

Yet brain-injured soldiers at Fort Bliss have had to wait weeks and sometimes months just to get appointments with doctors, medical records show. Many have received far less therapy than is typical at well-regarded civilian clinics. In some instances, Fort Bliss medical officers have suggested that the soldiers are malingerers or that the main root of their cognitive problems is psychological.

"Here you have all these soldiers looking for help, and it was just getting swept under the carpet," said Sgt. Brandon Sanford, 28, a dog handler who survived two roadside blasts in Iraq. Sanford endured a year of balance problems and mental fog before Fort Bliss officials sent him for cognitive therapy. "I served my country. I've got an injury to prove it."

This reminds me of a Wall Street Journal story I co-wrote back in 2003, about a kid named Jason Stiffler who fought in Afghanistan, came back with partial paralysis, PTSD and depression, and then had to battle the bureaucrats at the VA to get benefits so he didn't have to sell shoes on the side of a highway to support his wife and son. It just makes me want to scream.

This program aired on June 9, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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