Sen. Sherrod Brown: Military Needs Better System for Reporting Traumatic Events

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Senator Brown says if a soldier suffers a serious head injury in Iraq or Afghanistan, that injury is reported. And that report helps the soldier get a diagnosis from a doctor, and to file claims for insurance and disability.

Veteran Michael Fairman of Columbus, whom the senator credited for helping come up with the bill, said the same isn’t necessarily true for other conditions.

“There is a huge or significant population of people—of veterans—with either mild traumatic brain injuries that are not being recognized or cases or post-traumatic stress," Fairman said at the press conference announcing the bill, "because they’ve experienced a trauma, they just haven’t been properly documented.”

Brown said those injuries and experiences may seem minor at the time, but they can lead to big problems later.

“Not one of them caused significant injury," Brown said, "but in the cumulative effect, could cause serious behavioral issues, could cause suicide, could cause alcoholism down the road."

Both men said it’s especially hard for service members who aren’t combat troops to come up with documents later showing what they experienced.

Brown’s bill would create a system for the military to keep these records. It would also allow soldiers to report going on combat patrols, seeing people being killed or seriously hurt, and surviving or witnessing sexual assault.

Brown says he hopes the military will take up these ideas even if his bill doesn’t pass.

At least one national mental health group says it's concerned about the bureaucratic hurdles Brown and others described. J.B. Moore, the manager for military and veterans policy and support with the National Alliance for Mental Health, said many soldiers run into problems trying to pull together documents proving they've had traumatic experiences.

“If you’re waiting for documentation that may or may not even exist, what are you going to do?” she said in a phone interview.

Moore, who is a veteran, said she knows of Brown's bill -- but said she hasn't read the full text of it yet, because it has just been introduced.

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