The IED Aftermath: Addressing the Alarming Rise of Traumatic Brain Injuries Among Veterans in Mississippi

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have become the weapon of choice for enemy forces in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) have become the “signature wound” of these wars. Mississippi is home to thousands of veterans suffering from the devastating effects of TBIs sustained in combat zones. This article explores the rise of TBIs among Mississippi veterans, the challenges they face, and ways our state can better address their needs.

A Troubling Trend

According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC), over 400,000 service members were diagnosed with TBI between 2000 and 2019. Of those, 82.3% were diagnosed after 2007 when IED attacks surged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mississippi is home to over 200,000 veterans, many of whom served in these recent conflicts.

IED blasts produce powerful shockwaves that damage brain tissue and disrupt normal brain function. This can cause lifelong impairments affecting cognition, behavior, emotion regulation, and more. Unlike wounds to other body parts, brain injuries are often invisible yet have profound effects. TBI has been called the “signature wound” of Iraq and Afghanistan for good reason.

The rise in TBIs from IED blasts is incredibly alarming. These devices account for over 60% of coalition casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roadside bombs, vehicle bombs, and other IEDs cause more injuries and deaths than bullets or mortars.

IED explosions subject the brain to intense changes in atmospheric pressure, sending out shockwaves that damage neurons, axons, and blood vessels. This diffuse damage is known as a primary blast injury. TBIs can also occur from being struck by bomb fragments or being thrown into solid objects by the force of the blast, causing secondary and tertiary injuries.

The severity of TBIs ranges from mild concussions to profound impairments. Effects can be short-term or lifelong. Common TBI symptoms and deficits include headaches, dizziness, memory loss, poor concentration, irritability, depression, and anxiety. More severe cases lead to disability from ongoing cognitive, motor, sensory, and behavioral dysfunction.

Unique Challenges for Mississippi Veterans

Veterans returning to Mississippi face unique challenges in obtaining care and support for TBI and related conditions. Our state suffers from shortages of neurologists, rehabilitation services, and other specialty care. Long driving distances make access difficult, especially for veterans in rural areas. Stigma and lack of public awareness present additional barriers.

Mississippi also struggles with high poverty rates and low educational attainment, making successful reintegration a steep climb for veterans with disabilities. Homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, and suicide disproportionately impact those suffering from the effects of TBI.

The VA has some specialized programs for TBI, but long wait times and being far from VA facilities make getting care difficult. Veterans in Mississippi often rely on community providers who lack experience treating combat-related TBIs. There is also a shortage of community reintegration services, job placement programs, housing assistance, and other supports.

Families bear much of the burden of caring for veterans with TBI. Spouses and parents struggle with the physical, emotional, and financial toll. Younger veterans may lack the family support older generations relied on. Strained relationships, social isolation, and financial distress exacerbate the problems caused by TBI.

Urgent Action Needed

Left unaddressed, the rise in TBI threatens the well-being of Mississippi veterans, their families, and communities across the state. Concerted efforts are needed to improve care, provide support, and help veterans regain quality of life. As a state, here are some steps we can take:

Increasing Access to Care

  • Recruit more neurologists, rehabilitation specialists, and other providers to underserved areas
  • Expand telehealth services for remote diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring
  • Enhance transportation assistance programs for veterans
  • Fund more in-home care services

Bolstering Community Supports

  • Fund more case management and peer support programs
  • Initiate public awareness campaigns to reduce stigma
  • Provide job training, vocational rehab, and accommodations to help veterans re-enter the workforce
  • Increase affordable housing options for veterans with disabilities
  • Start support groups and respite care for family caregivers

Improving Research and Data

  • Coordinate with academic institutions on TBI research and clinical trials
  • Track long-term outcomes through a TBI registry
  • Study the needs of Mississippi veterans to guide policy and programs
  • Implement screening to identify veterans at risk for long-term issues

Advocating for Change

  • Demand more federal funding and services for rural veterans
  • Engage veterans’ groups and families in advocacy efforts
  • Elect leaders committed to fulfilling promises made to veterans

Our veterans sacrificed their health and well-being in service to our country. As a state, we have a moral obligation to provide the services and support needed to ensure their successful transition and reintegration back into our communities. Though the path forward presents challenges, by working together we can begin to address this crisis.

If you’ve suffered a TBI due to the negligent act of another party, reach out to us today. We have 32 offices across 19 states, including Mississippi, Florida, and Washington, and can help you obtain the compensation and help you deserve. Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.