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19 % of Returning Iraq Service Members Suffer From Traumatic Brain Injury New Study Reports

A new study by the RAND Corporation reports that 19 percent of returning service members report that they have experienced a possible traumatic brain injury and nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — 300,000 in all — report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression. 7 percent reporting both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression.

The RAND study estimates that about 320,000 service members may have experienced a traumatic brain injury during deployment.  The brain injuries span the spectrum form concussions to severe penetrating head injuries.  But, just 43 percent reported ever being evaluated by a physician for head trauma or brain injury.

Unfortunaely many service members said they do not seek treatment because they fear it will harm their careers.

"There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Terri Tanielian, the project's co-leader and a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation. Unfortunately, we found there are many barriers preventing them from getting the high-quality treatment they need."

The findings are from the first large-scale, nongovernmental assessment of the psychological and cognitive needs of military service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past six years. The RAND study is the first to comprehensively assess the current needs of returned service members from all branches of the military.

Researchers concluded that a major national effort is needed to expand and improve the capacity of the mental health system to provide effective care to service members and veterans. The effort must include the military, veteran and civilian health care systems, and should focus on training more providers to use high-quality, evidence-based treatment methods and encouraging service members and veterans to seek needed care.

The Rand Report suggests that thehe Department of Defense's newly created Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury may provide a historic opportunity to change the culture of psychological health within the military and to promote and monitor the use of high-quality care to service members. The RAND report provides information that the center could use to pursue these objectives through the use of innovative care models and performance measurement techniques.

One-year estimates of the societal cost associated with treated cases of mild traumatic brain injury range up to $32,000 per case, while estimates for treated moderate to severe cases range from $268,000 to more than $408,000. Estimates of the total one-year societal cost of the roughly 2,700 cases of traumatic brain injury identified to date range from $591 million to $910 million.

The report is titled "Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery." The full report and several summaries are available by clicking here.

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