The term “signature injury of the war” was first used by Dr. George A. Zitnay, co-founder of Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center in May 2006 . Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Dr. Zitnay explained how body armor saves lives. Troops survive bigger blasts with damaged brains. He said, “Traumatic brain injury is the signature injury of the war on terrorism.”
Congress responded by cutting the annual funding of his center in half, from $14 million to $7 million.
Dr. Zitnay had requested $19 million. On August 8, 2006 USA Today reported Center for war-related brain injuries faces budget cut. I found two memorable quotes:
“I find it basically unpardonable that Congress is not going to provide funds to take care of our soldiers and sailors who put their lives on the line for their country,” says Martin Foil, a member of the center’s board of directors. “It blows my imagination.”
“Honestly, they would have loved to have funded it, but there were just so many priorities,” says Jenny Manley, spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee. “They didn’t have any flexibility in such a tight fiscal year.”
Preliminary research by the center shows that about 10% of all troops in Iraq, and up to 20% of front line infantry troops, suffer concussions during combat tours. Many experience headaches, disturbed sleep, memory loss and behavior issues after coming home, the research shows.
The center urged the Pentagon to screen all troops returning from Iraq in order to treat symptoms and create a database of brain injury victims. Scientists say multiple concussions can cause permanent brain damage.
The Pentagon so far has declined to do the screening and argues that more research is needed.