The signature battle wounds for Iraq and Afghanistan vets are post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) -- ailments that are difficult to diagnose and easy for officials to ignore. While vet advocates like Andrew Pogany and innovative treatment programs like El Paso County's veterans court are aiding such soldiers, there is much work to be done. What happens to soldiers who fall through the cracks?
Investigative reporter Michael de Yoanna and KUNC reporter Grace Hood spent six months with one of them to find out.
The soldier in question is Shawn Lynch, a former staff sergeant in Colorado Springs who says he's a shell of the man he once was thanks to his repeated exposure to enemy bomb explosions while stationed in Iraq in 2006. But in the months that followed the attacks, he never reported the blasts on military health forms -- in part because he wasn't yet experiencing any disconcerting symptoms, and in part because of what he says is the ongoing Army stigma attached to soldiers who say they're hurt.
In the years that followed, such omissions would come back to haunt him as he began experiencing anxiety, nightmares and speech problems. Since the Army had no record of his combat exposure, officials said they couldn't diagnose him with a TBI -- which meant he couldn't receive ongoing health benefits and treatment from the army that he needed.
Hood and de Yoanna tracked Lynch for months as he struggled with his debilitating mental problems as well as military bureaucracy. His story reveals that nine years after the combat operations in the Middle East began, the Army still has a lot to learn about helping those who it sends off to war.
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