After more than a decade of foreign wars, many of America's military veterans deal with combat injuries and PTSD. But an even larger problem is the mass of soldiers who've come home with devastating non-combat injuries.
In the Washington Post today, Rajiv Chandrasekaran takes a long look at the epidemic of veterans who found themselves damaged by their military service—not in direct combat, but in the countless other risks that go along with military life in wartime, like training accidents, on-the-job injuries, and constant mental and physical stress. To give you some idea of the scope of the problem:
Of the 2.6 million service members dispatched to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, more than half say their physical or mental health is worse than before they deployed, according to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation. But most of those health problems are not the result of gunshots, grenades and roadside bombs: Almost eight in 10 of those reporting health problems - about 1 million of them - say they were not seriously injured in combat...
The Post-Kaiser survey found a deterioration of physical health in 43 percent of veterans and worsened mental health in almost a third. Among those who served in combat jobs, the changes are even more significant: 56 percent say their physical health is worse, and nearly four in 10 say their mental health has slipped.
Not only that, but it seems likely that these numbers will only rise as the VA processes more veterans' claims, and as the long-term effects of head injuries and general wartime mental trauma manifest themselves in the coming years.