Iraq and Afghanistan vets have high rate of spinal injuries

According to a recent study published in Spine, a journal covering research in the field of orthopedics, the number of veterans coming out of service with spinal injuries is much greater than it has been in years past. The study, which looked at data from the Department of Defense from 2005 to 2009, found that 11.1 percent of around 7,900 vets wounded in combat suffered spinal injuries.

The overall number of spinal injuries for military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan was 4.4 per 10,000 troops. Overall, that is a lot less than the rate of limb injuries, but it is a significantly more than the rate of spinal injuries for vets involved in previous conflicts. With respect to the number of spinal injuries from the Vietnam War, the number is 10 times higher for troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Part of the reason for this is that most soldiers who suffered spinal injuries in Vietnam did not survive. Indeed, medical science has made much progress in dealing with these injuries. Unfortunately, medical care for spinal injuries is costly.

For vets, there are social security disability benefits for spinal injuries available through the Veterans Administration. In addition, vets with spinal injuries may also be able to qualify for disability benefits through Social Security. Vets, and anybody else who suffers from a spinal cord injured, can qualify for Social Security disability benefits by showing that their impairment prevents them from working at any job, or that they meet the requirements of an official disability listing. Qualifying for disability through the Veterans Administration is a whole other issue, and has its own set of requirements.

In either case, it is critical to provide sufficient, quality evidence from the start. Doing so will ensure that the disability application process takes no longer than is necessary.

Source: news.health.com, “Spinal Injuries to Soldiers Much More Common in Iraq, Afghanistan Wars,” September 20, 2013.

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