by Lynn Lowder
Author Robert F. Worth’s 6/10/2016 article in the New York Times Magazine is well worth reading and should be widely disseminated. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/magazine/what-if-ptsd-is-more-physical-than-psychological.html?_r=0
Anyone who has ever survived an IED blast, to include military EOD personnel and breaching team personnel…virtually anyone who has been in close proximity to explosive blasts…should carefully read this article. As Worth notes, beginning in WW I with the advent of soldiers exposed to concussive explosions, a condition called shell shock was recognized. In WW II, it was renamed combat fatigue and is nowadays known as PTSD. Regardless of its renaming, within the military the condition has long been accepted as one which is psychic in orientation rather than a physical injury. Importantly, in the past decade an elite group of neurologists and physicists began pushing back at senior military leadership, challenging the military’s longstanding view of this injury and their often standard response of handing out pills, telling soldiers to simply deal with it and then sending them back into harm’s way.
Developments in physics have brought new light to bear on this situation. Beginning in 2010, neuropathologist Daniel Perl began a post-mortem brain study of blast-injured troops. He and his colleagues studied brain tissue of many combat veterans and found something dramatically different from concussive injury incident to football or car accidents…a dust-like scarring in borders between gray matter (where synapses are located) and the interconnected white matter. In fact, this phenomenon was seen in brains of veterans who died just a few days after blast exposure. All of the blast-injured brains they studied had the same pattern scarring in the same places…the brain’s centers for sleep, essential brain functioning (attention, memory, judgement, reasoning, evaluation) and more.
If Perl’s findings are confirmed by other scientific research, it is conceivable that veterans previously diagnosed with a psychic trauma may have to be re-evaluated. Indeed, many veterans…past and present…may well have been the recipient of an injury physical in nature.
Additionally, this research could have significant impact on the character of certain veterans’ discharges from active-duty. It may well be that not only should affected veterans VA disability ratings be re-evaluated, but in some cases, DoD may well be called upon to re-evaluate veterans who were inappropriately discharged under certain discharge codes/ratings inappropriate to their situation.
Keep your eye on this circumstance as doubtless there will be more research, related drug therapies and impact within the VA…and potentially DoD…coming down the pike. In the end, our veterans need and deserve caring, competent diagnosis and treatment within the VA. They also deserve to be fairly evaluated as to the character of their active-duty service (and discharge) within the DoD military branch under which they served and sacrificed for our citizens and our nation. Nothing less is acceptable and nothing less should be tolerated. The ramifications of this development for veterans, the Veterans Administration, DoD and our nation are potentially enormous.