War on Terror Leaves 6,500 Americans with Severe Brain Injury and 1,700 with Amputations

Monday, February 11, 2013

The U.S. “War on Terror,” specifically the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have exacted a frightening toll on American military personnel the past eleven years, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service. Compiling data from a variety of sources, the report details the ongoing costs of this warfare: More than 50,000 Americans have been wounded in action and 6,656 have died. More than 1,700 troops have lost one or more limbs, almost 130,000 have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more than 253,000 have experienced some form of traumatic brain injury (TBI).


One of the most common injuries in both wars, TBI result from insurgent use of homemade bombs, or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). More than 194,000 of TBI cases (77%) are classified by the Pentagon as “mild,” equivalent to a concussion; 42,063 (17%) have been “moderate;” and 6,476 (2.5%) are “severe or penetrating TBI,” including open head wounds, skull fractures, and projectiles lodged in the brain. Just more than 10,000 (4%) have been un-classifiable.


The data on TBI, and on PTSD as well, probably understate the problems, because military diagnosis and recognition of these conditions is infamously poor: One former Army chief of staff called screening for TBI “basically a coin flip,” and under-diagnosis of PTSD has been a problem for some time.


Of the 1,700 amputations, 1,496 veterans have lost a “major limb,” like a leg or arm, while 222 have had partial foot, finger or other so-called “minor limb” losses.


Suicide has become a growing problem, the report noting that as of January 9, 2013, 332 service members had killed themselves while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.


Meanwhile, in the countries “hosting” these wars, civilian death tolls of at least 150,000 dwarf those of American personnel. In Iraq, at least 111,000 civilians have been killed as of January 13, 2013, while 30,000 to 45,000 have been killed in Afghanistan, and 14,000 to 43,000 have died in Pakistan.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

The Cost of War Includes at Least 253,330 Brain Injuries and 1,700 Amputations (by Spencer Ackerman, Wired)

U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom (by Hannah Fischer, Congressional Research Service) (pdf)

212,000 U.S. Veterans Have Traumatic Brain Injuries (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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