Veterans Journal: Navy Surgeon General Describes Mental And Physical Toll Of War Wounds

George W. Reilly | Providence Journal | November 2, 2014

Of the signature wounds of the past 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, limb amputations affect the service member most directly, while psychological issues can pose altogether different challenges, Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan said in a Sept. 18 speech to medical personnel at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Resilience summit in Falls Church, Va.  Since the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Nathan said, some 1,500 to 1,600 service members across the service branches suffered amputations — the visible wounds of war. But, 10,000 sailors and Marines alone suffered the invisible wounds of posttraumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, he said. And “the whole [injured service member’s] family is consumed by significant psychological health issues.”

Nathan, a former commander of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said it takes about a year for amputees to get their lives back through the use of prosthetics and other support, but he could not give such a timeline to anyone suffering from moderate to severe traumatic brain injury or posttraumatic stress.  “I bet we know 10 percent to 15 percent of what we need to know of treatment for the invisible psychological wounds of war. It is much more of an art than a science.”

Surviving spouses of veterans who died on active duty may apply for government-sponsored scholarships. The Department of Veterans Affairs will begin accepting spouses’ applications for Fry Scholarships Monday, the agency announced. Before the expansion, Fry Scholarships were open only to surviving children...