So-called mild traumatic brain injury has been called one of the wars' signature wounds. Shock waves from roadside bombs can ripple through soldiers’ brains, causing damage that sometimes leaves no visible scars but may cause lasting mental and physical harm.
Officially, military figures say about 115,000 troops have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries since the wars began. But top Army officials acknowledged in interviews that those statistics likely understate the true toll. Tens of thousands of troops with such wounds have gone uncounted, according to unpublished military research obtained by NPR and ProPublica.
"When someone's missing a limb, you can see that," said Sgt. William Fraas, a Bronze Star recipient who survived several roadside blasts in Iraq. He can no longer drive, or remember simple lists of jobs to do around the house. "When someone has a brain injury, you can't see it, but it's still serious."
That's a text report. You can click here for another at ProPublica. This morning, they discuss the issue with Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition, click here for audio. And they've created a folder with a number of stories and a timeline here. Their investigation comes as a new study on PTSD is garnering attention. Karen Kaplan (Los Angeles Times) reports:
It’s well known that combat takes a toll on the mental health of soldiers -- for instance, studies of people who served in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have found that those who experienced combat were two to three times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than their counterparts who remained out of harm’s way. But studies have been less consistent in determining how many soldiers develop PTSD and other mental health disorders after deployment.
So a group of experts from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command examined 13,226 anonymous surveys completed by veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some of those veterans were part of active duty Army divisions, and others served in National Guard infantry brigades.
Amanda Gardner (CNN's Health) reports that as many as 31% of the service members who have been stationed in Iraq may have PTSD and/or depression with 14% experiencing it so severely that it interferes with day-to-day life. Eric Niiler (Discovery) notes the problems with receiving treatment:
As the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan continue, PTSD has gotten the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Congress doubled the budget of the Veterans' Administration in the past eight years and last month passed a new bill that boosts funding to treat PTSD, brain injuries and other combat-related mental health issues.
Still, the Veterans' Administration recently reported it faces a backlog of more than 175,000 claims for all kinds of disabilities, and that veterans wait an average of 110 days to get their claims processed.
At Huffington Post, James Zogby makes the usual idiot of himself. Zogby feels the need to weigh in on Helen Thomas. In three paragraphs. And he can't even stay coherent. This is how we reason?
I know Helen Thomas. We noted her on Social Security yesterday morning and I'd hoped that other sites on the left would as well and that could be the focus. Instead everyone fed into the growing witch hunt. Her remarks were her own (videotaped remarks) and she apologized for them. That should have been "end of story."
Instead, she's been forced into retirement. Zogby's in search of the bad guy and just knows that it's Sarah Palin (among others). Idiot Zogby better find someone else to crucify. I am so sick of this s**t. As we noted at Third -- and called it out -- there was a campaign to get Discovery to drop Sarah Palin's show. That's censorship. And that campaign came from the left -- it was heavily advertised at The Progressive. For those who missed it, it's to the right below.
You can't support that (or be silent in the face of it) and then whine when one of your own loses a job. Everything Sarah Palin did, she did publicly. She didn't hide her anger at Helen Thomas, she didn't plot from the shadows. She objected to Helen's remarks and did so publicly and out in the open.
Ari Fleischer is a different story. And he's how Helen ended up out of a job. While Palin did what she did in the open, he spent the weekend on the phone attempting to shame supporters of Helen into silence and trying to get weak-willed reporters to come out publicly and condemn her.
Steven Thomma of McClatchy, no one needed to know what your cry baby ass thought of the situation. You didn't make the remarks. You weren't defending Helen, you had no reason to voice an opinion (you are, pay attention, a reporter and not a columnist). Having offered an opinion (slamming Helen) for publication, you then had no business reporting on the issue.
Ari did what he always did and that's what did Helen in. There's a story in that. A story about a liar and a whore named Ari who helped sell an illegal war but can still get almost any reporter on the phone. There's a story there.
Had he aimed his fire at Ari, Zogby might have had a (small) piece worth reading. Instead, he likens Ari and Sarah's actions as equal in one sentence. They aren't equal. Sarah Palin did what she did publicly. Ari did what he always does, what you'd expect from a backbiting, catty piece of trash. He's had it in for Helen for years and he worked his grudge all weekend. On Monday, the effects of that rolled out hourly.
Zogby then stupidly wants to bring Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson into it. Why?
I don't follow either of those two. If there's a reason to bring them up, Zogby fails to establish why. But they said bad things! Lots of people say bad things. Did they apologize for them?
I don't follow them.
Instead of offering a reasoned presentation, Zogby resorts to, "They did it too! Everybody does it!" That's ridiculous. We don't put up with that from our children, we certainly shouldn't accept it from gas bags.
Knowing Helen, I didn't take offense to her remarks. I have a context for them. Her anger is very real and it is understandable. She apologized for her remarks and that's to her credit. She realized she'd offended people and she offered a sincere apology. What she didn't offer, what no one in the press (or James Zogby) offered, was what she was actually saying and the whys of it. Helen Thomas does not hate Jewish people. Helen Thomas is one more person caught in the tragedy that has become life for Israelis and Palestinians. It is an ongoing tragedy and calling for Helen's head helped neither side. Helen deserved better than the treatment she received -- far better -- and if you're looking for someone to blame, it's Ari. The right-wing echo chamber could have fretted all day, every day, for weeks. Ari turning the press on their own was what forced the resignation. After Ari, blame Robert Gibbs who used Helen as a moment to grandstand in an attempt to distract from the Gulf Disaster.
The following community sites updated last night:
We'll close with this from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee:
On May 27th, Senate Democrats led the effort to pass a bipartisan supplemental appropriations bill that funds key counterterrorism and national security missions and supports disaster recovery initiatives by a vote of 67 to 28. The bill provides a total of $58.96 billion in emergency funding for Fiscal Year 2010 in support of ongoing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well as $2.6 billion for the Afghan Security Forces Fund and $1 billion for the Iraqi Security Forces Fund; more than $5.5 billion for continued and emerging disaster relief and recovery initiatives for affected communities across the United States; $2.8 billion to support relief efforts in Haiti; and $68 million in initial disaster response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The following Fact Sheet outlines the key investments of the legislation.
The supplemental bill provides a total of $32.8 billion in funding, as requested, for the Department of Defense (DoD) for operations, personnel costs, and equipment related primarily to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan , but also in support of ongoing operations and continued drawdown efforts in Iraq .
Providing our troops with the resources and tools they need to fulfill their missions. Funding provided in the bill will ensure that our forces engaged in critical national security missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have the most effective weaponry, communications, and other equipment they need on the battlefield. It fully funds key readiness programs necessary to prepare military forces for combat operations and other missions and also funds vital initiatives that support our forces in theater, including high priority intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
Protecting our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan . The supplemental bill ensures that our deployed service members are armed with the best force protection equipment available. It provides a total of $1.1 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and funds key upgrades to equipment and detection systems to safeguard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The bill also supports the Army’s Ground Standoff Mine Detection System for convoy protection and road clearing in Afghanistan and fully funds the Special Operations Command’s requirement for additional protective equipment.
Ensure our troops are provided first-rate care and services. The supplemental bill provides $1.8 billion for military personnel, including special pay and allowances, for Active, Reserve, and Guard troops activated for duty in Iraq , Afghanistan , and other contingency operations. It also includes $33.4 million for the Defense Health Program.
Advancing a Comprehensive Strategy for Combating Terrorist Threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan
The supplemental bill ensures that our ongoing counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are fully-resourced, providing additional funding to address the costs of increasing military and intelligence operations and also supporting bolstered diplomacy and development efforts.
Regaining the momentum against the Taliban through an integrated civil-military strategy. The bill fully funds the addition of 30,000 military personnel in Afghanistan , as announced by President Obama in December. These forces are critical for targeting the insurgency and securing key population centers, and also will allow for accelerated training of the Afghan Security Forces. As the President, General McChrystal and top national security officials have underscored, these enhanced military operations are part of a comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan that combines military, intelligence, diplomatic, and development efforts.
Bolstering the Afghan Security Forces to lead a sustained fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda. The supplemental bill includes $2.6 billion to train and equip the Afghan National Army and Police Forces and to assist the Afghan government in assuming greater responsibility for its security. In the words of Secretary Gates, “successfully accomplishing the training mission represents both our exit strategy and the key for long-term stability in Afghanistan .”
Enhancing development assistance for Afghanistan and Pakistan to promote long-term economic development and confront the resurgence of the Taliban and other terrorist threats.
- Afghanistan. The bill supports the civilian surge in Afghanistan and related efforts to promote social and economic development in areas secured by U.S. and international forces. It provides $1.3 billion in economic assistance to Afghanistan to fund reconstruction and civilian assistance initiatives and programs to build the capacity of the Afghan government and increase transparency and accountability. Further, the bill includes $169 million for international security assistance for Afghanistan for rule of law programs, drug interdiction, justice reform, and corrections programs. And the bill makes critical investments in U.S. efforts to disrupt Taliban financing, including by expanding the Afghan Threat Finance Cell.
- Pakistan. The supplemental bill includes $259 million in critical assistance for Pakistan in support of ongoing programs to strengthen democratic governance, rule of law, and social and economic services for improving the lives of the Pakistani people. Additionally, the bill provides $50 million in military assistance as well as $40 million in international security assistance for police training, equipment, and infrastructure support.
Supporting Our Mission in Iraq and Transitioning Responsibility to the Iraqis
The supplemental bill supports the President’s strategy to responsibly drawdown U.S. combat forces from Iraq , focus on training and counterterrorism missions, and promote the transition of security and governance responsibility to Iraqis. It provides $1 billion to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces Fund and assist the Iraqi government in assuming greater security responsibility; $650 million in security assistance funding, including $400 million for the Iraqi police program; and $1 billion for diplomatic and security operations. Further, the bill supports ongoing diplomatic, economic development, and governance initiatives vital to fostering sustainable security and political reconciliation. It also includes a provision to extend the requirement that U.S. assistance be matched by the Iraqi government.
The bill includes several provisions to enhance oversight of Department of Defense acquisition programs as well as U.S. assistance activities in Afghanistan , Pakistan , and Iraq , and also puts in place effective oversight measures for U.S. relief efforts in Haiti . It strengthens reporting requirements and provides additional funds to bolster the capacity of Department of Defense, Department of State, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Inspectors General in order to ensure greater accountability and increased protections against fraud and wasteful spending. Notably, it includes provisions for improving contract oversight and management of the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund and Pakistani assistance programs.
Ensuring Strong Disaster Relief and Recovery Efforts at Home
The supplemental bill addresses significant shortfalls in disaster relief accounts that are critical for addressing past disasters and also responding to recent disasters across our country. The bill provides $5.1 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund, as requested, to pay for known costs from previous disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Gustav, the 2008 Midwest floods, and the California wildfires, as well as for needs that emerge from new disasters. In addition to this funding, the bill provides more than $425 million in disaster assistance not included in the President’s initial request, critical to responding to the many natural disasters that have impacted communities across the country in recent months, including the floods in Tennessee, tornadoes in the mid-West and South, and storms in the northeast. Without these emergency funds, FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund would have been exhausted later this month, leaving FEMA unable to pay claims for Presidentially-declared disasters, both old and new, and leaving impacted communities without the resources needed to clean-up and rebuild in the aftermath of these natural disasters.
Supporting Relief Efforts in Haiti
The supplemental bill includes $2.8 billion in funding to support critical relief and recovery efforts in Haiti following the January earthquake. It provides $913 million in international security funding and bilateral economic assistance for humanitarian, relief and reconstruction, and law enforcement and peacekeeping initiatives. The bill also includes $465 million for International Disaster Assistance to respond to humanitarian emergencies; funding to cancel existing debts owed by Haiti and support for U.S. Treasury Department programs to strengthen the country’s financial system; $79 million for urgent Embassy security costs; and $96.5 million for increased peacekeeping assessments for the U.N. mission in Haiti .
Responding to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
The bill includes funding required for initial response to the devastating effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico . Specifically, the bill provides $29 million for the Department of Interior to fund inspections, enforcement, and studies for determining the causes and impacts of the spill; $10 million to the Department of Justice for related litigation and enforcement; $13 million to mitigate the economic impact of the oil spill on fishermen and fishery-dependent businesses; $26 million for NOAA response efforts, including $15 million for fishery disaster relief activities and $10 million for an expanded stock assessment of fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico; $5 million for economic adjustment assistance programs for strategic planning and technical assistance to regions affected by the oil spill; $2 million for the FDA to enhance its seafood inspection capabilities; and $2 million for the EPA, as well as $1 million for the National Academy of Sciences to study the long-term risks and impacts to the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico.
 Secretary Gates, Testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, 3/25/10.
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