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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog
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Monday, May 07, 2007
A Signature in Blood -- and Neurons
No matter your politics, I hope you'd agree that it's a strange world in which wars are said, dispassionately, to have "signature injuries." For the American Civil War, maybe this was battlefield amputations; for World War I, trench mouth or gas-attack symptoms; for Vietnam, I guess, post-traumatic stress; and for the original Gulf War, various Agent Orange-related afflictions.
Here at sossisson.com, we've noted before (recently, for example, here) that traumatic brain injury is widely regarded as the signature wound of the current war in Iraq. This sad state of affairs has at last received Federal attention, in the form of a Congressional ruling that soldiers must be tested for TBI before and after their Iraq deployments. This news came at the end of last week, in a report from USA Today. This comes roughly concurrently with a report from the Defense Department itself, per the Associated Press.
From USA Today:
The Pentagon must use computers to screen troops before and after they go to Iraq or Afghanistan to better determine whether they suffered traumatic brain damage in combat, according to a plan by a congressional brain-injury task force...
And from the Associated Press:
Issuing an urgent warning, the Defense Department's Task Force on Mental Health chaired by Navy Surgeon General Donald Arthur said more than one-third of troops and veterans currently suffer from problems such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.There have also been a couple of other recent news items on this issue:
As increasingly elaborate body armour protects the torso, and even the limbs, the brain is still vulnerable to shock waves that helmets cannot deter... And these "closed-head" injuries are harder to treat than even those commonly suffered by motorcyclists.
As an aside, if you -- like I -- were previously unfamiliar with the term "Article 15": It refers to a section of the Universal Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ. Generally, it's one of the UCMJ's "punitive articles." According to Rod Powers, about.com's "Guide to the US Military," Article 15 is one of several proceduresAn MRI later showed that Thurman had lesions on the right parietal lobe of his brain, a condition that led to a “don’t deploy” order — which the Army violated, according to Thurman. Worse, rather than providing compassionate understanding of the symptoms associated with traumatic brain injury, he said leaders at Fort Carson, Colo., have harassed him, refused him medication and pushed for an Article 15.
whereby the commanding officer or officer in charge may:Note that the soldier whose case is covered in the Army Times piece claims about his post-TBI treatment that his superiors have "pushed for an Article 15." I understand that the military code of justice must be different than the civilian. But if this claim is at all true, I hope the military at least stops to reflect on ways in which Article 15 can be abused -- if not outright criminalizes the abuse.
[Updated 2007-05-09 7:56 pm]
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