News & Politics

VFW Demands Apology After Trump Minimizes Traumatic Brain Injuries

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet members of the military at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is criticizing Donald Trump for remarks he made this week about the 34 soldiers injured during the Iranian missile strike on an American base earlier this month.

In trying not to give the Iranians any semblance of victory because of the missile strike, Trump has stepped into a hot veterans health issue; traumatic brain injury.

CNN:

Earlier this week, Trump said he does not consider potential traumatic brain injuries to be as serious as physical combat wounds, minimizing the severity of the injuries, saying he heard that some troops “had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it’s not very serious.”

But the VFW says a TBI is just as serious as any combat-related injury.

“The VFW expects an apology from the President to our service men and women for his misguided remarks,” William “Doc” Schmitz, VFW National Commander, said in a statement Friday, following the Pentagon’s announcement that 34 US service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries in the January 8 Iranian attack.

“And, we ask that he and the White House join with us in our efforts to educate Americans of the dangers TBI has on these heroes as they protect our great nation in these trying times. Our warriors require our full support more than ever in this challenging environment,” Schmitz added.

The severity of TBIs varies greatly, although there has been a lack of studies that can better define the injuries. In this case, of the 34 service members diagnosed with TBI, 17 have already returned to duty in Iraq. Nine service members are still undergoing treatment in Germany, while another 8 have been sent to the U.S. for additional care.

TBI symptoms can persist for weeks, months, even years after the initial injury. It has become the second-most diagnosed brain disease for veterans after PTSD. “TBI is known to cause depression, memory loss, severe headaches, dizziness and fatigue — all injuries that come with both short- and long-term effects,” reads the VFW statement. In severe cases, it can cause personality changes, including violent behavior, confusion, speech, sensory, vision, and cognitive deficits, including difficulties with attention, memory, concentration, and impulsiveness.

The VFW has fought hard to have the military recognize TBIs as a legitimate injury, worthy of separate attention by the VA. There is now a series of treatments for those suffering from TBI that include medical, rehabilitative, and psychological care.

I don’t think Trump was deliberately slighting those with TBI. But in his efforts to downplay the seriousness of the Iranian missile attack, he inadvertently kicked up a controversy.