Veterans with traumatic brain injuries and the realities when returning home


shadow

For Veterans, returning home may be a complicated journey filled with emotional, physical, and mental highs and lows, particularly if they are trying to recover from an injury. Although coming home after multiple tours of duty is a dream come true for family and friends, many Veterans struggle to find normalcy upon their return.

Many of our Veterans do not sustain physical injuries while overseas, but since the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of Veterans return home with various injuries from limb loss to traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains a traumatic brain injury as a “bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that interferes with normal brain function.” TBIs are a major cause of death and disability in the U.S. and the injury can range from very mild to severe and life-altering.

An estimated 60 to 80 percent of Veterans who have sustained an injury from a blast also have a TBI. Although traumatic brain injuries are common among injured Veterans, it may be difficult to accurately determine how many suffer from TBIs. TBIs are often seen as an “invisible disability.” Some of the signs and symptoms, of traumatic brain injuries, are mistaken for common mental and emotional health issues that Veterans struggle with when returning home.

Common Signs and Symptoms of TBIs

Sadly, not every vet with a TBI is aware that he or she has one, as the signs and symptoms may vary for each person. Per the Mayo Health Clinic, there are cognitive issues such as mental confusion or difficulty understanding. There are also behavioral issues like aggression and irritability; many of the symptoms depend on where the TBI occurred in the brain.

Individuals with TBIs may also suffer from anger, anxiety, depression, sensitivity to light and sound, or loneliness. These symptoms may be common for a vet with or without a TBI, returning home, trying to get “back to normal” after witnessing atrocities.

The Reality of Living with a TBI

Since TBIs can result in some major cognitive and behavioral changes, a vet with a traumatic brain injury may have a difficult time adjusting to life after returning from overseas. From alcohol and drug abuse and violent outbursts to chronic pain and feelings of hopelessness, TBIs can contribute to situations that may put a vet behind bars, end a relationship, struggle with homelessness, or make it difficult to find or keep a job.

Since some traumatic brain injuries go untreated or misdiagnosed, some Veterans experience a lifetime of struggles.

Resources for Veterans with TBIs

If a vet knows that he or she has a traumatic brain injury or suspects that he or she may have suffered one during a tour of duty, he or she should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Once diagnosed and depending on the severity of the injury, he or she may require surgery, various therapies, or medication.

Since TBIs can affect the mental and emotional health of an individual, TBI survivors are strongly encouraged to enroll into a rehabilitation program. By seeking support from professionals and fellow TBI victims, a vet may be able to transition to home life more easily and avoid negative life-changing events like unemployment, homelessness, or loss of relationships.

 


Image of R. PagliaroRosemary Pagliaro has been an offshore survey engineer, a computer engineer, a teacher, and more recently a freelance writer and stay-at-home mother of a toddler who never rests. While tackling daily motherhood, she enjoys hiking the desert mountains, watching an exciting movie, or catching up on a good book. Being a former military brat and military spouse she has had the fortune to travel and obtain a lot of information regarding various subjects.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

-- VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you'd like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Robert C    

    It’s too late for me. The effects from PTSD and TBI have already done their damage. I waited too long–40+ years–to get the help I needed. I have lost everything, and I credit it to PSTD and TBI.
    DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. GET HELP NOW. CALL THE VA. 800-273-8255
    The Veteran’s Administration has programs that can help. I wish I had gone sooner. It cost me my marriage, my children, my career, my life.
    DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. GET HELP NOW. CALL THE VA. 800-273-8255
    It’s hard knowing that maybe I could have saved my life had I gotten the help I needed.
    DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. GET HELP NOW. CALL THE VA. 800-273-8255

    It takes a warrior to ask for help.
    TAKE ACTION NOW:
    Traumatic Brain Injury
    http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/traumatic-brain-injury.asp
    PTSD
    https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/web/myhealthevet/mental-health

    Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or chat online at http://www.VeteransCrisisLine.net* to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.

    Contact the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

    Regards,
    Robert C.
    25th Infantry
    Vietnam 1969-70

  2. Rappsodi Ali    

    I am a Vietnam veteran Marine with PTSD and TBI and I am still underrated, Blind with both ears blown out. Is there an answer to this??? Thank you…

  3. Rigoberto M. Vindiola    

    I’m a Vietnam Veteran with service-connected TBI, PTSD, and bad hearing. Served in Vietnam from 1968 to 69 with A Battery, 2nd of the 40th Artillery, 199th Light Infantry Brigade. Got VA diagnosed for PTSD on November 2013, TBI and Tinnitus followed. In between 1969 and 2013 I got and lost many jobs. I lost a State Dept. job and a county government job because of PTSD symptoms. The federal people accused me of war crimes in Vietnam then sent the false accusations up the ladder of command; I was libeled, slandered and defamed. Forced to resign or get fired. The County job forced a resignation as no promotions/advancements for 5 years because I had an anger problem. Both agencies knew I was a Vietnam Veteran and both agencies violated the protections afforded the Vietnam Veteran by the 1974 Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). Both agencies intentionally overlooked, circumvented, and/or ignored this Act.
    Went to the VA and they ignored me. Went to Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and they passed the buck. Who can I go to for help, some satisfaction and/or relief?

    1. Peterson L    

      Sir, you need a good lawyer knowledgeable in Veteran cases.

  4. Peterson L    

    So what does one do when you’re diagnosed with TBI by two different VA Dr’s, then file a claim for compensation, the Supposed dr that does the comp and pen eval keeps telling you that “all of your symptoms aren’t from TBI they are ptsd related”….then when you ask them why they Think that’s the case and how they are better at diagnosis than Two MDs they answer by saying they had a class right before this evaluation.
    Of course that claim was denied…appealed…denied…and appealed again. What’s even more irritating is they denied my claim stating that I did not send any medical documentation in to substantiate it when THAT’S ALL I SENT IN! Every document sent in for my TBI claim IS MEDICAL DOCUMENTATION!

Comments are closed.