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Epidemic: Over 400,000 Traumatic Brain Injuries for Vets Coming from Iraq and Afghanistan

America faces a huge challenge in caring for the shocking number or traumatized war vets.

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Instead of accepting the advice of its own researchers, however, Tricare hired ECRI- a company which had already done a study concluding that CRT was ineffective-to examine the therapy. But critics charge that the study was so narrow, and the assumptions behind it so loaded, that it was almost a given that the study would conclude the benefits of cognitive therapy were "inconclusive." Outside researchers blasted the ECRI study, one of them describing it as "hooey" and "baloney."

 

In spite of the criticism, then Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England concluded, "The rigor of the researchhas not met the required standard."

 

However, Miller and Zwerdling concluded that Tricare's resistance to CRT was not about science, but the bottom dollar. According to the reporters, a Tricare-sponsored study found "that comprehensive rehabilitative therapy could cost as much as $51,480 per patient. By contrast, sending patients home from the hospital to get a weekly phone call from a therapist amounted to only $504 a patient."

 

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already made it clear that he intends to cut the military's $50 billion annual health budget. No matter how effective CRT is, it's not likely to get past the brass, who would rather spend the money on weapon systems than on healing the men and women who they so casually put in harm's way.

 

So far, the military has put the clamps on the new MRI technique. Dr. David L. Brody, an author of the study, told the New York Times that researchers were blocked from giving the MRI results to patients."We were specifically directed by the Department of Defense not to so," adding, "It was anguishing for us, because as a doctor I would like to be able to help them in any way. But that was not the protocol we agreed to."

 

Given that mTBI is so difficult to diagnose, and sufferers are many times told there is nothing wrong with them, that seems an especially cruel protocol. "Many of them [the doctors] were hoping we could give results to their care providers to document or validate their concerns."

 

In the end it will come down to treatment, and whether the wounded vets will get the care they need, or sit by a phone and wait for their once a week call from a therapist. 

Read more of Conn Hallinan's work at Dispatches from the Edge .

 
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