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Just a week after Memorial Day, here’s a sobering statistic about veterans who are returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nearly half are applying for disability benefits for service-related injuries and illnesses — more than for any previous wars, according to the Associated Press.
“America’s newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate, claiming to be the most medically and mentally troubled generation of former troops the nation has ever seen.
A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after some other relatively recent wars, top government officials told The Associated Press.
What’s more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans claimed less than four and those from World War II and Korea, just two. Problems can be anything from a bad back to hearing loss to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.”
While there is some speculation that factors such as a weak economy and high unemployment rates may be leading veterans to apply for disability benefits, there’s no disputing that recent veterans are dealing with injuries and lifelong ailments that others before them did not.
“The new veterans have different types of injuries than previous veterans did. That’s partly because improvised bombs have been the main weapon and because body armor and improved battlefield care allowed many of them to survive wounds that in past wars proved fatal.
“They’re being kept alive at unprecedented rates,” said Dr. David Cifu, the VA’s medical rehabilitation chief. More than 95 percent of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have survived.”
The scope and types of injuries are severe and serious:
Of those who have sought VA care:
- More than 1,600 of them lost a limb; many others lost fingers or toes.
- At least 156 are blind, and thousands of others have impaired vision.
- More than 177,000 have hearing loss, and more than 350,000 report tinnitus — noise or ringing in the ears.
- Thousands are disfigured, as many as 200 of them so badly that they may need face transplants. One-quarter of battlefield injuries requiring evacuation included wounds to the face or jaw.
- Tens of thousands of veterans suffered traumatic brain injury, or TBI — mostly mild concussions from bomb blasts — and doctors don’t know what’s in store for them long-term. Cifu, of the VA, said that roughly 20 percent of active duty troops suffered concussions, but only one-third of them have symptoms lasting beyond a few months.