Military not Diagnosing or Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries Adequately

traumatic brain injuries

An investigation by NPR and ProPublica released in June, 2010 found that the military health system is failing to diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A review of government records and interviews with a large sample of servicemen and women, military experts and senior medical officials revealed that many veterans were receiving “little or no treatment for lingering health problems.”

Minor traumatic brain injuries have been identified as one of recent veterans “signature wounds” because of the increase in so-called blast injuries and advances in combat medicine that have made previously fatal injuries into survivable ones. Official military figures identify about 115,000 troops who have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began. While awareness of the signs and symptoms of TBI has increased in recent years, army officials have indicated that many of these injuries go unaccounted for and therefore untreated.

Military failing to diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries

Despite promises by military leaders and millions of dollars allocated to fix gaps in diagnosing and treating brain injuries in 2007; many problems still remain.

The 2010 study found:

  • Screening systems used by military doctors to diagnose TBI are unreliable at best. One test used missed as many as 40 percent of concussions.
  • Even if a soldier is lucky enough to receive an accurate TBI diagnosis, the information is often not entered into the soldier’s permanent medical files. The reasons for this are many including lost paperwork in abandoned warehouses and poor web connectivity of handheld medical devices in war zones.
  • For those who do not receive a diagnosis in their file, many receive no treatment or have been “branded as malingerers.” Others are prescribed psychotropic drugs instead of rehabilitative therapy that would be helpful in retraining their brains.

The military’s failure to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves is contrasted by growing awareness about the dangers of concussions and head trauma in the civilian world. The issue may be deeply rooted in military culture with ambivalence about head trauma coming from the highest levels. Despite civilian research showing that five to fifteen percent of people suffering from mild TBI have ongoing memory, concentration and mental focus issues, for example, some senior Army medical officers remain skeptical that mild traumatic brain injuries among solders could be causing these types of cognitive problems.


The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center provides information on current military policies around TBI, concussion screening and strategies for managing symptoms of TBI.

If you or a loved one is suffering because of an undiagnosed or untreated traumatic brain injury you may benefit from the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.

The Seattle personal injury attorneys at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC have years of experience representing families harmed by medical malpractice. We seek justice for patients who have been harmed by preventable medical errors including birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and wrongful death in Seattle and across Washington State. There are no fees or expenses to file a personal injury case as we only receive payment if we recover damages on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims come with a Statute of Limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time frame of the injury.

Call us now at (206) 752-4366 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.