By: Charles D. Hankey

American troops are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and many more of them are wounded and even disabled than one might think. Although the Pentagon counts 47,195 soldiers physically wounded, that number is small compared to the number of soldiers returning home with the invisible ailments of post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and mild traumatic brain injury.

VA hospitals are seeing approximately 10,000 new patients with PTSD every three months. Over 200,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD; about 16% of all soldiers who fought in those wars. These veterans may experience flashbacks, nightmares, a state of hypervigilance, or a feeling of emotional numbness.

Cases of depression among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been increasing at a rate of 6-7% per quarter, with roughly 9,000 new cases every three months. In addition, the Pentagon has counted more than 200,000 brain injuries among current veterans, and most of those are TBI.

How is the VA handling this influx of invisible injuries? 1/3 of VA hospitals have wait times longer than 2 weeks for new patients to see a mental health doctor, and with more and more new troops returning home all the time demand is only going to grow. There is also often a real or perceived stigma about seeking care for mental disorders and, in rural areas, it can be difficult to find treatment.

Disorders like PTSD, depression, and mild traumatic brain injuries can be disabling, especially if combined with a physical wound or problem. If you or a loved one suffers from these conditions, don’t hesitate to contact our office for help getting the benefits you deserve.