At least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries, according to military and veterans records compiled by USA TODAY.
The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon's official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.
Do the numbers and that works out to more than 50,000 wounded. But it could be far worse. One expert estimates as many as 150,000 troops may haver returned form Afghanistan or Iraq with brain injuries.
USA Today reports:
Soldiers and Marines whose wounds were discovered after they left Iraq are not added to the official casualty list, says Army Col. Robert Labutta, a neurologist and brain injury consultant for the Pentagon.
"We are working to do a better job of reflecting accurate data in the official casualty table," Labutta says.
Most of the new cases involve mild or moderate brain injuries, commonly from exposure to blasts.
More than 150,000 troops may have suffered head injuries in combat, says Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.
"I am wary that the number of brain-injured troops far exceeds the total number reported injured," he says.
About 1.5 million troops have served in Iraq, where traumatic brain injury can occur despite heavy body armor worn by troops.
We also know that about a third of returning troops are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome-- another diagnosis that doesn't necessarily appear when the troops are in Iraq or Afghanistan. That number could take the number of wounded up past 700,000.
It is hard not to think that if the pentagon is so blatantly manipulating numbers of troops injured-- reporting 30,000, when the numbers could exceed 25 times that-- that they are also under-reporting deaths of troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. To go a step further, with suicide rates of veterans at the highest levels in history, the current numbers of just under 3800 may actually be a small fraction of the actual dead.
Repeatedly, the leaders in the pentagon have proven to be untrustworthy, more interested in saving their jobs than letting the American people know what is really happening. The values of integrity and honesty seem to have lost their favor in the pentagon, only to appear AFTER generals retire. Maybe it's time for congress to pass legislation protecting generals (and their jobs, )who stand up to the president and vice president to tell the truth. They might just become the most important whistleblowers in america.