Traumatic Brain Injuries in Veterans: Resources and Support for Recovery

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Many brave soldiers have been injured while they were serving our country. During the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the signature injury was a traumatic brain injury.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense reported more than 375,000 diagnosed cases of traumatic brain injuries among members of the armed forces between 2000 and 2017. Veterans who were in vehicle crashes, exposed to explosions, or received blows or jolts to the head, may have suffered a brain injury without them even being aware of it.

Some brain injuries do not manifest any symptoms until months after the injury. Many veterans do not realize the symptoms are connected to the trauma to their brains because so much time has passed by, and so they do not know where or how to receive the proper treatment.

A soldier in uniform, sitting at home on a couch and holding his hands up to his head.

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury in Veterans

Traumatic brain injuries bring a multitude of different symptoms. Veterans are at high risk of receiving brain injuries from the dangers associated with their work.

These injuries leave veterans with cognitive, physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, all of which affect every aspect of their lives. Medical professionals with experience in brain injuries are required for proper diagnosis and treatment because of the complex variables involved.

The majority of traumatic brain injuries in veterans are considered mild, but even mild injuries sometimes have serious, long-lasting consequences. Memory, the ability to think, mental focus, and mood are all affected by brain injuries.

The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Blurred Vision
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty Speaking
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing Problems
  • Changes in Taste and Smell
  • Trouble Concentrating
  • Difficulty Remembering
  • Often Repeating Yourself
  • Quick to Anger
  • Easily Frustrated

Many veterans diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries find their symptoms fade away within hours or days of the initial incident. Some have to wait weeks or months for their symptoms to resolve, while others must endure persistent symptoms that last much longer.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a traumatic brain injury is caused by a forceful bump, blow, or jolt to the head or from an object that pierces the skull and enters the brain. These injuries disrupt the normal functioning of the brain.

Traumatic Brain Injuries From Exposure to Explosions

Exposure to explosions is a common cause of brain injuries. Explosive forces affect the entire body, and these multiple injuries interact with each other resulting in more disabling symptoms and longer recovery times.

Traumatic brain injuries caused by exposure to blast waves are typically more complex than those caused by other events.

Explosions also send shrapnel into all objects in the surrounding area, including people. These high-speed fragments can hit or penetrate the head and cause traumatic brain injuries and can also damage other parts of the body, causing massive blood loss, which could cause brain damage.

In addition to TBIs, explosions can also cause chemical brain injuries when victims inhale toxic substances created by the explosion.

Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injuries in Veterans

Veterans who have served in combat operations must undergo mandatory screening for traumatic brain injury if they use Veterans Affairs health care. They are asked four simple questions to identify whether they have been exposed to events of increased risk for traumatic brain injuries and if they have any symptoms related to that event.

The medical examiner will discuss the results with the veteran after completing comprehensive evaluations. The veteran will receive recommendations for follow-up care and referrals to specialists if necessary.

Support for Veterans Diagnosed With Traumatic Brain Injuries

All veterans in the United States of America have resources for support. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides benefits for veterans during and after their time of service.

Some of the benefits they can receive are as follows:

  • Health Care
  • Disability Compensation
  • Education and Training
  • Pension
  • Insurance
  • Home Loans
  • Veteran Readiness and Employment
  • Burial
  • Support for Caregivers

Caregivers

The best support system for veterans and anybody else with traumatic brain injuries is provided by their caregivers. These caregivers are typically family members, close friends, homecare professionals, or any combination of these people.

Caregiving is one of the most important roles in helping people recover from traumatic brain injuries. The support and encouragement provided on a daily basis are essential for recovery.

Caregivers also ensure patients stay compliant with their treatment plans.

Unfortunately, caregiving often takes a toll on the giver. Staying positive, being emotionally strong, and sometimes taking on verbal and even physical abuse from the patient is exhausting.

Having to care for your loved one while seeing them suffer through pain and depression is draining, and having to watch their struggles and the change in their daily lives is beyond difficult. Thankfully, there is support for caregivers through Veterans Affairs as well.

Tips For Caregivers

  • When giving instructions to your loved one, be mindful to only ask for one thing at a time, as people with brain injuries have trouble multitasking.
  • Use calendars and make lists to help them remember events. The detail involved will depend on the severity of the person’s difficulty with memory. For example, some people will need a reminder about an appointment at three. Other people will need additional details, such as being told to put on their shoes, bring their wallets, and comb their hair.
  • Routines are highly beneficial for people with brain injuries. They will know what to expect, and important tasks are less likely to be forgotten when following a schedule. Most important tasks should be completed in the morning as the injured veteran typically loses energy throughout the day.
  • Always remember that both the veteran and the caregiver will have good days and bad days. It is important to take breaks to keep from feeling overwhelmed. Emotions and physical stress are often unpredictable and are affected by a multitude of factors.
  • Accept help and use your resources before you begin to feel burned out. The process of recovery is sometimes more difficult for the caregiver than it is for the patient. Remember to take breaks and accept help from other family members and friends. You do not have to do it all.
  • Join a support group for caregivers. Talking to people in similar situations is very therapeutic. Confiding your feelings with someone who understands will help you feel validated in your emotions and give you the strength to keep going even when you feel like you are not making a difference; you are making the biggest impact on your family member’s life and recovery.
  • Attend the veteran’s medical appointments and provide the doctor with details about any progress and challenges. Many veterans find it difficult to discuss these issues, but not mentioning a problem will hinder the recovery process. Also, take note of recommendations or changes in the treatment plan, as people with brain injuries tend to forget or have difficulty understanding. They need you with them.
  • Take care of yourself. Self-care is extremely important for caregivers but is often overlooked. Veterans Affairs has a support line for caregivers, 1-855-260-3274. Do what you need to do to stay healthy and to keep motivated. Your family member needs you, even if they do not want to admit it.
  • Get plenty of rest, and remember that you are not alone.

Disability Claims for Veterans

Traumatic brain injuries qualify for disability claims. If you or your loved one have suffered a head injury, it is important to file a claim for disability with Veterans Affairs as soon as possible.

You do not need a traumatic brain injury diagnosis before filing your claim. If you have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, keep a written daily log of the frequency and severity of each episode.

The medical personnel at Veterans Affairs will need this information to process your claim. Contact the attorneys at Tatum & Atkinson if your claim is denied by Veterans Affairs or if the process is taking too long.

Call Tatum & Atkinson to Get Your Disability Claim Approved

There are times when valid claims get denied or hung up in processing at Veterans Affairs. The attorneys at Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters can help.

We are experienced in getting disability claims approved and will make sure you have all the necessary evidence, documentation, and medical evaluations to get your claim processed and approved. Call 800-LAW-0804 for a free consultation to discuss how we can help your case.

You have served our country. Now let us serve you by ensuring you get the benefits you are entitled to receive.