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Bob Woodruff Report Draws Attention To Vets' Brain Injuries And Inadequate Care
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 28, 2007

BETHESDA, MARYLAND--On Tuesday night, ABC-TV ran a powerful one-hour special report from reporter/anchor Bob Woodruff, about the traumatic brain injury he sustained while covering the war in Iraq, his ongoing rehabilitation process, and how injured veterans and their families are finding out the hard way that the U.S. government is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of unseen, "closed-head" brain injuries.

Woodruff was severely injured in January 2006 by a roadside bomb blast. The report starts with an account of that blast, followed by the immediate medical treatment he received, his 36 day coma, and the rehabilitation therapies that followed.

Woodruff, along with many of the surgeons and rehabilitation specialists that worked with him, feels that he was extremely lucky -- that he represents a small percentage of those who recover most of their earlier functioning levels.

During and after his time in the hospital, Woodruff learned that the new weapons being used in the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly the improvised explosive device or IED, are causing an unprecedented number of closed-head brain injuries among soldiers and Marines. Some experts that Woodruff interviewed estimated that as much 10 percent of the more than 1.5 million military personnel -- or 150,0000 troops -- that have served since 2001 have sustained some sort of head trauma.

Department of Defense officials, on the other hand, say that just 1,835 have been treated for traumatic brain injuries.

Some critics speculate that the low estimate could be because there usually are no signs of external trauma, such as shrapnel or bullet wounds. Others suggest the Bush administration is trying to hide the true extent of these long-term disabilities, and go so far as to say that the military has resorted to using gag orders -- telling those involved to keep quiet about the issue.

At any rate, as Woodruff reports, Veterans Affairs hospitals are finding that they are not equipped to adequately treat those whose wounds are not visible.

Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from the state of Washington whose father served in World War II, appeared on the floor of the Senate, to urge her colleagues to watch Woodruff's report and to pay more attention to injured veterans.

By Wednesday, Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson was responding with a number of television appearances of his own, saying that from now on all service members that come in "with a sore foot or hand or need eye or dental care" would now be screened for TBI.

For those who missed the program, Woodruff's entire report is available online.

"Bob Woodruff Reports: To Iraq and Back"
"One Man’s Survival Story Becomes a Rallying Cry 'To Iraq and Back'" (New York Times)
"Brain Injury Association Partners with ABC Anchor Bob Woodruff to Assist Brain-Injured Veterans"
"Sen. Patty Murray Criticizes Administration's Handling Of Iraq War, Veterans"(KIRO-TV)
"Disabilities And The 'War On Terror'" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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