The Republican-controlled House and Senate are pushing through a Pentagon-supported defense appropriation bill that will chop funding for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center
from $14 million to $7 million. The center runs 10 facilities across the country, that have performed research and treated soldiers' injuries since 1998.
It's just ridiculous," said Sgt. Maj. Colin Rich, a Fort Bragg soldier who has been legally blind since he was shot in the head while serving in Afghanistan in 2002. "Whoever is cutting the budget must have a head injury themselves. With the bombs, the gunshot wounds and everything else . . . they need that money."
The Pentagon asked only for $7 million and didn't respond properly when congressional staffers tried to find out whether it needed more money for the program, said Jenny Manley, a spokeswoman for the Senate appropriations committee. That said, Congress haven't removed the proposed cuts as yet, even though the Veterans of Foriegn Wars have spoken out against it voiciferously.
"Honestly, they would have loved to have funded it, but there were just so many priorities," says Jenny Manley, spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee. George Zitnay, co-founder of the center, testified before a Senate subcommittee in May that body armor saves troops caught in blasts but leaves many with brain damage. "Traumatic brain injury is the signature injury of the war on terrorism," he testified.
The House of Representatives approved its version of the spending bill June 20. A vote in the Senate is pending. So far, it looks like it looks likely to pass, because it is bundled in with the rest of the Defense budget, that our representatives don't dare to oppose.
Zitnay asked for $19 million, and 34 Democratic and six Republican members of Congress -- the members of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force -- signed a letter endorsing the budget request. Soldiers and veterans, if you want to know which of your politicians have taken the time to look out for you on this issue thus far, here they are.
Please note how many big names are not on there. No sign of John McCain, or of Hillary Clinton, for example. That doesn't mean that these politicians are necessarily against adding another $7 or $12 million to the budget, however... especially if put on the spot. If your local representative isn't on this list, perhaps you'd like to give 'em a call and ask why... or at least determine if they plan to oppose the $7 million budget cut. And if you hear anything from them, please let me know.
So, what is the Pentagon afraid of? It's not the extra $7 or $12 million that it will cost to fully fund the treatment centers and allow doctors to diagnore soldiers whose concussions have caused them injury. No, they're afraid of the billions it will cost to provide treatment and care to these veterans.
As of March 31, the Pentagon reported about 1,200 traumatic brain injuries as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Experts say the real total is much higher because closed-head injuries in particular -- those where there is no obvious wound -- often go undiagnosed. The proportion of head injuries is higher in Iraq than in past wars partly because roadside bombs and suicide car bombs are often the weapons of choice for insurgents. Troops caught in blasts often live but can be jolted so badly by the shock wave that their brains are injured by smacking against the inside of their skulls.
So really, by slashing funding for diagnosing and treating brain injuries in half, not only will the Pentagon save $7 million this upcoming year, it will save many additional millions -- or possibly billions -- down the road, as undiagnosed, untreated veterans are left to fend for themselves with ailments that aren't officially recognized as wartime injuries... and so far, the Republican Senate appears ready to sign off on the deal.
The longterm effects of head injuries are the Agent Orange of this war, and the Pentagon doesn't want to deal with the full ramifications and costs of what their own doctors are telling them, so they've engaged in a conspiracy to cover it up, not treat soldiers they know are injured while they can still be helped, and write these injured soldiers off the books, as they would get in the way of buying another stealth bomber or two. Undiagnosed brain injuries *simply don't exist*.
If you wish to avoid the ugliness of that analysis, however, you can view it as just some simple "accounting glitch".
"Dang... we cut funding for perhaps the most vitally needed medical treatment for our recently wounded soldiers. Oops!!"
For those who think this must be some kind of horrible mix-up, please be sure to ignore the fact that the Pentagon refuses to release information on how many soldiers have suffered brain injuries, as that could lead to unwanted doubts or questioning. Can't have that.
Obviiously, those people are not injured veterans with longterm medical disabilities. They're tomorrow's homeless. So stop patronizing them! They'd only spend the money on booze anyway...
(In retrospect, I should apologize to those veterans who have suffered head trauma. Comparing them to our leaders is unfair. A soldier who suffered a traumatic brain injury would still be smart enough not to cut funding for his buddies, whereas our politicians -- and various leaders inside the Pentagon -- are prone to be cold, calculating bastards who pay lip service to America's veterans, while screwing them over in order to keep overhead low. This is not a new thing. People must suffer and sometimes die to keep America free. And hey, isn't that what our troops signed up for in the first place?! )