Soldiers left behind by their own government

When it comes to treating brain injuries in war, the U.S. isn’t getting any better at it, an investigation by NPR and Pro Publica shows.

In a series that begins today, investigators found military doctors routinely misdiagnose “mild traumatic brain injuries.”

But it’s the final conclusion of the series that remains the most troubling. Even after they’re injured in service to their country, U.S. soldiers have to fight for appropriate treatment, especially in the face of the occasional doctor who thinks a soldier is faking it.

“One of the first things you learn as a soldier is that you never leave a man behind,” said soldier Michelle Dyarman, 45. “I was left behind.”

What is upsetting about the report is that it repeats in astonishing clarity, the situation before Congress vowed to change things. They dedicated $1.7 billion to research and treatment of traumatic brain injury and PTSD. They passed a law requiring the military to test soldiers’ cognitive functions before and after deployment so brain injuries wouldn’t go undetected, according to NPR.

But, the report says, the military did little to try to overcome the “gung ho” attitude of soldiers to “shake injuries off” and stay with their comrades.

Here’s a preview of the series, which can be heard this afternoon on All Things Considered.

  • I heard a preview this morning and was astonished at what was reported. TBIs are, in many ways, the worst kinds of injury. A person with a TBI can end up being a totally different person, but look completely normal. Unlike PTSD, it cannot be solved with psychotherapy nor drugs. It is a real, physical injury.

    I’ve worked with TBI people and it is tragic. People with PhDs and good careers now working in sheltered workshops for $5 an hour. With the personality changes that occur they can lose all their friends and their families don’t recognize them. It is very tragic and needs to be addressed as if the person lost a limb or had other physical disability: agressively.