Researchers out of Boston University’s School of Medicine have sobering news for veterans: a link has been drawn between service-related brain injuries and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain wasting disease that can have a slew of serious consequences and health issues.
But what does this discovery mean for disabled veterans and their families, and how should we respond to this new information?
Why Is CTE Affecting Veterans?
In the past, CTE has been found more commonly in professional athletes who participate in contact sports like football, boxing, and hockey—men who suffered multiple concussion and head injuries over an extended period of time. Researchers now think that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to similar dangers, especially those who have come into close contact with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Medical experts say that explosions caused by these weapons can have a serious impact on the brain—even if service members never lose consciousness or suffer concussions.
Life With CTE
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of CTE is that doctors do not know much about the disease, including why some people seem more susceptible than others and how to stop its progression. Here are a few facts we do know:
- CTE can present itself in a few months, years, or even decades after brain trauma takes place.
- CTE can cause memory problems, headaches, dementia, confusion, behavioral issues, slowed movements, speech problems, hearing problems, cognitive issues, tremors, lack of judgment, memory loss, and even violent outbursts.
- As CTE progresses through its three stages, sufferers often become more and more disabled, erratic, and confused.
Currently, CTE can only be accurately diagnosed after the death of a sufferer when the patient’s brain is examined with a microscope.
But It May Be Possible to Get Veterans’ Benefits
Because we currently lack diagnostic tools to find CTE in living sufferers, getting disability benefits for the disease can be difficult—but not impossible.
An estimated 220,000 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered traumatic brain injuries. It may be years before we know how many will be affected by CTE.
Yet, many soldiers suffering from CTE symptoms can prove that their brain injury was connected to their service and get the support and benefits that they deserve. To learn more about your own case, contact Morgan & Weisbrod today to schedule a free and confidential meeting.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.