Study Shows Possible Connection Between Concussions and PTSD in Veterans

28 Oct 2016

The men and women fighting for our freedom often come home with various ailments, but one of the most dreaded is PTSD. While physical injuries heal over time, post-traumatic stress disorder is difficult to live with, and it leaves a person feeling unlike their normal self. There has always been some confusion over why some soldiers deal with a diagnosis, while others, who went similar circumstances, seem to escape it. A recent study found some new information that might be helpful in learning more about this disorder.

Researchers recently published their findings in JAMA Psychiatry after studying 1600 Marine and Navy service members from Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. Participants were evaluated before deployment, and then again 3 months after returning from their tour. They discovered that those who suffered a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury were twice as likely to develop PTSD upon returning home.

After further studies with animals, researchers discovered that head injuries often result in changes to the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the fear response. A person who has not experienced a blow to the head has the ability to suppress fears and deal with them, but those who have experienced a traumatic brain injury have a heightened sense of fear that cannot be controlled. This explains why certain noises, settings, or even smells can trigger a PTSD episode.

Follow-up research involved scanning the brains of both military and civilian patients who had experienced a concussion. Not only was the activity in the amygdala heightened, but the area of the brain responsible for suppressing a fear response showed activity lower than normal.

Additional research will continue to explore this connection, and possibly help identify military personnel who may be susceptible to PTSD for earlier diagnosis and treatment. If you served in the military, are experiencing PTSD, and need assistance, contact us.

ALS and Gulf War Vets

21 Oct 2016

From 2003 to 2007 the VA enrolled Veterans with ALS in a National Registry. The registry collected data, including DNA, to be used for a number of studies on ALS. This registry was a result of the VA-DOD study that compared case rates of ALS in Gulf War veterans with non-deployed veterans and found a statistically significant increased risk for developing ALS. The Gulf War vets had a case rate of 6.7/million/year compared to a population case rate of 3.5/million/year.

In September 2008, the VA Secretary announced that there is a presumption that ALS is a service-connected condition for all vets with ALS who had greater than 90 days of service. The wording of "presumption" rather than "cause" is significant.

Since that time, there have been a number of studies that suggest the development of ALS in Gulf War vets was time limited to the decade after service. Other studies have suggested that all military veterans, regardless or time and place of service, have a higher risk of developing ALS. The ALS Association published a White Paper last year detailing the current state of the research into ALS and military service and concluded there was enough research to support a causal link.

Medical research, based on the way a study is designed and conducted, can suggest a relationship between two things without being able to prove a cause and effect relationship. This is due to the difficulty of accounting for all the extraneous variables that can affect the results. At this time, the majority of studies are "presuming" a relationship between ALS and military service without being about to prove a direct cause and effect. This is because we still have not found the cause. The ALS Association White Paper is supporting a causal relationship between ALS and military service because the number and quality of the studies all show the relationship, without being able to detail a cause.

ALS is only one of a group of neurological conditions that seem to affect Gulf War vets at a greater rate than the general population. The VA reports Parkinson's Disease, MS, and Brain Cancer are more common in this group of vets. The cause or causes are still unknown.

For more information about ALS and military service, or other topics... please contact us.

Veteran Unemployability After Spinal Cord Injuries

14 Oct 2016

Spinal cord injuries are obviously serious but can cause lasting effects that you might not originally think about. Veterans who suffered a service-connected spinal cord injury may like to find out more about life after a SCI.

Extended Hospital Stays

The National SCI Statistical Center highlights how impactful SCIs are as their research indicates that fewer than 1% of people with these injuries make a complete recovery by the time they are discharged. Around 30% of patients return to the hospital at least once for an average stay of 22 days after being discharged the first time. This means veterans might need disability benefits for a variety of medical reasons relating to a SCI even years after the initial injury.

Unemployability

A veteran might also need to make a TDIU claim as those with SCIs often suffer partial or total loss of function in the arms, legs or torso. More than half of those with SCIs were employed before the injury, but only 12% of people still had a job one year after receiving the injury. The employment rate for those with a SCI rises as time passes but is still fairly low as 34% are employed after 20 years. Veterans may have trouble finding a job for a long time after this injury, especially when coupled with other physical or mental conditions.

Every year after an incident, a minor SCI may cost around $42,000 while a severe SCI could cost $185,000 annually. If you are a veteran who needs assistance getting the help you deserve after a spinal cord injury, contact us today.

New Study Reveals Veteran Suicide Rates

06 Oct 2016

Transitioning to life after the military can be difficult, and issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, physical disabilities, and depression compound the problems. Veterans have a suicide rate that is 50% higher than those who have never served in the military.

In July, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in Washington released the results of a study examining over 55 million Veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The analysis revealed that an average of 20 Veterans a day died from suicide in 2014.

Other key findings included:

  • Most of those who died are older. 65% of Veterans who died from suicide in 2014 were 50 years of age or older.
  • Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults.
  • The risk of suicide is 21% greater for Veterans.
  • Veterans who receive treatment are better off. Since 2001, the rate of suicide among US Veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8%, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6%.

The VA is attempting to put in place a number of measures to address the suicide risk in Veterans, including ensuring same-day service for Veterans with urgent mental health needs. Other efforts include:

  • Using predictive modeling to identify Veterans at high risk of suicide and providing early intervention
  • Establishing four new regional telemental health hubs.
  • Hiring over 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line. Responders are trained in crisis intervention, substance use disorders, screening, brief intervention, and treatment referral.
  • Building new collaborations between Veteran programs in VA and those working in community settings, such as Give an Hour, Psych Armor Institute, University of Michigan’s Peer Advisors for Veterans Education Program (PAVE), and the Cohen Veterans Network.
  • Creating stronger inter-agency (e.g. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health) and new public-private partnerships (e.g., Johnson & Johnson Healthcare System, Bristol Myers SquibbFoundation, Walgreen’s, and many more) focused on preventing suicide among Veterans.

Trained in a military mindset the eschews any perceived weaknesses, it is often difficult for Veterans who are suffering to ask for help. Anyone who suffers a job loss or struggles with relationship issues and financial worries feels a heavy weight of stress on their shoulders. Unfortunately, Veterans may feel as if they should not need help with these burdens.

If you are suffering from depression or thoughts of suicide, contact us. We can help you get the psychological help you deserve. Immediate help is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or texting 838255.

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