Our Illinois brain injury lawyers were happy to read this week about a new traumatic brain injury initiative that is being spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama. As reported by the Associated Press, the announcement was made Wednesday by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joseph Biden. The launch of the initiative was made public during a ceremony at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. This particular medical school has been at the forefront in brain injury research. The hospital often partners with Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center Veteran’s Affairs Hospital to work with service member brain injury victims.
The initiative is centered on providing increased access to resources for victims, practitioners, educators, and all those involved in treating and researching traumatic brain injuries as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. The project is a joint effort partnering with an organization called “Joining Forces” which is a group working to encourage societal support for military personnel and their families. As blog readers know, returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan often suffer these sorts of injuries while fighting overseas.
Over 100 medical school members of the American Association of Medical Colleges have committed to participate in the effort. In addition, another 25 schools from the American Association of Osteopathic Medicine will play a role in the project. In describing the program and its potential the First Lady noted, “By directing some of our brightest minds, our most cutting-edge research, and our finest teaching institutions toward our military families, they’re ensuring that those who have served our country receive the first-rate care that they have earned.”
This initiative comes at a time when some have questioned the effectiveness of current brain injury treatments being provided to victims, particularly combat soldiers. As the story reports, as many as one in six returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 44,000 have likely suffered some form of traumatic brain injury, from moderate to severe. In the last decade, the U.S. Department of Defense reported that around 230,000 service members have suffered a brain injury. In other words, this is not an isolated group of victims, but a widespread problem in need of focused resources to address it.
A Rand Corporation study found that of the hundreds of thousands of returning service member victims, less than half have actually sought treatment. That figure suggests that much more work needs to be done to reach out to potential victims and to provide actual substantive help to get them back to their old selves. The First Lady reminded returning soldiers that “if you are struggling, please don’t be afraid to speak up. If you know someone else is struggling, encourage them to seek help. Asking for help is a sign of strength.” The Rand report found that many fail to report their illness out of fear of the effect it might have on their long-term military career.
During the initiative’s launch speech the First Lady acknowledged that the official end to the wars overseas marks the beginning of a long transition period. Those who have served cannot be left without the resources they need during this time.
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