PTSD, TBI: Pentagon, VA partner to help veterans with post traumatic stress, brain injuries

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A $100 million study by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will improve the diagnosis and the treatment of mild Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, officials said.

The goal, officials said, was to understand the aftereffects of mTBI and improve treatments for PTSD.

"PTSD and mTBI are two of the most prevalent injuries suffered by our war fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and identifying better treatments for those impacted is critical," said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. Jonathan Woodson.  "These consortia will bring together leading scientists and researchers devoted to the health and welfare of our nation's service members and veterans." 

As a nation at war, one in five service members returning from combat is thought to have PTSD.

Several thousand service members are thought to have mTBI.

"We veterans are tough [and] we're stubborn," said Violet Galloway, a West Palm Beach resident and former U.S. Army Specialist. "What I learned is I had to get out of my own way."

Galloway said she still suffered from the effects of PTSD three decades after she was sexually assaulted by a sergeant while in the military.

"I learned how to function within my dysfunction. And, by dysfunction, I mean nightmares, triggers, flashbacks, anxiety, depression," she said. "There's going to be memories that I can't erase but I've learned how to place them in proper perspective."

According to some estimates, 71 percent of women in the military with PTSD -- such as Galloway -- had been sexually assaulted.

Many times, veterans with mTBI or PTSD don't seek immediate treatment.

"They might be concerned about the stigma … they might be fearful of how others might react to them having this problem … they might be fearful to come in and go through treatment," said Dr. Elizabeth Borsage, PTSD program director at West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. "For many reasons, they might not come in as soon as they should. Many veterans will live for many, many years before they'll reach out for care."

The joint study is expected to lead to new treatments for veterans.

The Veterans Crisis Line in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides veterans mental health counseling by calling (800) 273-TALK (8255).

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