STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) — With IEDs and other explosions common in modern combat, veterans are returning home with concussions and other related injuries.
And while medical knowledge of brain trauma has increased, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system has not kept up and he wants to change that.
Brown, D-Ohio, was at the VFW Post 3538 in Struthers on Thursday, promoting his new legislation to help disabled and injured veterans. The law would work with existing databases and military technology to track mild head injuries and traumatic events, which are some of the factors that could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Brown said the military isn’t doing enough to treat or track PTSD.
He estimates there are nearly 300,000 veterans struggling with PTSD and another 25,000 facing mild Traumatic Brain Injuries.
“For purposes of disability, for purposes of medical care, of diagnosis and treatment, that the Department of Defense keeps records of these concussions going on with the soldier or marine so when they return home, they can focus on recovery,” Brown said.
Retired Army Capt. Anthony Kennedy of Hermitage led men and women into battle for the United States and he knows how hard it is for veterans to get medical treatment for some types of injuries.
“I have had many soldiers contact me after the fact, requesting help from me in the form of letters to the VA to help support claims from things have happened on the battlefield,” Kennedy said.
Brown’s law would make the military recognize the role even a minor head injury can play in a soldier’s life.
“The concussions that happen cumulatively, like a football player who gets hit six, eight, 10, 12 times. They get concussions that affect their behavior when they are 40, 50 years old or even younger,” Brown said.
Commanders are already using the system to record battles and enemy engagements.
“When the unit commander writes a report of an attack, that she, he does not record just the most serious head injuries,” Brown said.
The military already has these systems in place, and it would be as simple to use on the battlefield as checking in on Facebook.
“When you check in on Facebook, you can say ‘how I’m feeling’ and it tells you where you are and it tells you who you are with. Now imagine that on the battlefield when a significant event happens,” Kennedy said.
The law is being considered by Congress. The senator said he is beginning to build support for the measure.
Also in attendance at Thursday’s event in Struthers was LoLo, who is Kennedy’s constant companion. She is specially trained to help veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD.
“LoLo for me is trained to do nightmare interruptions. She has helped alleviate those nightmares by waking me up before I actually have them. She is my backup system,” Kennedy said.
The program, America’s Vet Dogs, is in Smithtown, New York.