Traumatic Brain Injury and the Lingering Costs of War
They do not receive the recognition or attention that they should, and the veterans that suffer from these injuries are often not receiving appropriate care.
Some of the lingering costs of the January 2020 Soleimani assassination include the injuries to U.S. personnel that suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the retaliatory Iranian missile attack:
He used to help run armed drone operations as part of the unit, but the now 31-year-old struggles with vision and hearing problems and suffers from constant headaches and memory loss. He says he can no longer do his job.
"The person I was prior to a traumatic brain injury, he's gone," Kvasager said. "There's parts that remain. The pieces are all still there, just — yeah, he's not coming back."
A CBS News investigation found Kvasager is one of dozens of soldiers injured in the attack who have not been recognized with the Purple Heart and who have been denied the medical benefits that come with it, despite appearing to qualify.
Traumatic brain injuries have been among the most common injuries suffered by U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, but much of the time they are not diagnosed properly and even when they are identified they are often not taken as seriously as other injuries. The effects of these injuries on the servicemembers that suffer from them can be severe, and as we can see from this report they can be debilitating and life-changing. They do not receive the recognition or attention that they should, and the veterans that suffer from these injuries are often not receiving appropriate care. Adding insult to injury, Centcom failed to report and track these injuries properly, and this is a problem that goes beyond those servicemembers injured in the missile attack at Al Asad.
We know that the Trump administration minimized the injuries suffered in the missile attack, and the president went so far as to dismiss them as nothing more than headaches. Minimizing the severity of the injuries became the standard response:
The soldiers CBS spoke with said after the attack, there was pressure to downplay the growing injuries to avoid a further escalation with Iran and avoid undercutting former President Trump.
Some of the U.S. personnel injured in the Al Asad attack have seen their careers brought to an end because they can no longer function as they once did:
An intelligence officer, Webster told CBS News it feels like her brain "has short-circuited" and she has been forced to medically retire from the army due to her injuries.
"I can do things for short spurts," Webster said, whose job entailed poring over intelligence for up to 12 hours a day. "My brain still works but it doesn't have any stamina, and it very frequently just stops working. And so, it's very difficult to do your job — and then you add any stress on top of it, and it makes it almost impossible."
Pridgeon is still in the military, but said he suffers from constant headaches, memory loss and vision issues.
"My wife will say I used to be so articulate, but now I'm almost like a stroke patient," Pridgeon said.
The Americans that were injured in this attack should have their injuries recognized and their service appropriately honored, and Congress should move swiftly to ensure that everyone like them has access to proper medical care.