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Fort Carson Brain Injuries: NPR And ProPublica Report Finds Up To 40% With Undiagnosed Injuries

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A new report from NPR and ProPublica reveals that as many as 40% of Fort Carson soldiers have brain injuries that the Army missed during basic health screenings.

From ProPublica and NPR:

If cases of brain trauma get past the battlefield screen, a third test -- the post-deployment health assessment, or PDHA -- is supposed to catch them when soldiers return home.

But a recent study, as yet unpublished, shows this safety net may be failing, too.

When soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo., were given a more thorough exam bolstered by clinical interviews, researchers found that as many as 40 percent of them had mild traumatic brain injuries that the PDHA had missed.

In a 2007 e-mail, a senior military official bluntly acknowledged the shortcomings of PDHA exams, describing them as "coarse, high-level screening tools that are often applied in a suboptimal assembly line manner with little privacy" and "huge time constraints."

Col. Heidi Terrio, who carried out the Fort Carson study, said the military's screens must be improved.

"It's our belief that we need to document everyone who sustained a concussion," she said. "It's for the benefit of the Army and the benefit of the family and the soldier to get treatment right away."

The article goes on to criticize the handling of traumatic brain injuries by the Army as a whole. According to ProPublica And NPR's research and interviews, tens of thousands of brain injuries have gone undiagnosed through the course of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, leading to widespread troubles with memory, depression, concentration and mental focus for veterans returning from combat.

The report comes on the heels of several critical stories on Fort Carson's handling of brain injuries and trauma. In April, the New York Times reported on the short-comings of the Army's Warrior Transition Battalion for, located at Fort Carson. The battalion, designed to be a transition unit for soldiers suffering from trauma to either recover and return to duty or phase out of active service, was describes as a "warehouse of despair."

Last year, a Rolling Stone article titled "The Fort Carson Murder Spree" quoted an Iraq War veteran and executive director of the veterans advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America as saying "It's no surprise that these murders happened at Fort Carson, as opposed to another Army base... The failures of leadership we've seen there border on dereliction of duty."

The Army's Surgeon General Told ProPublica and NPR "We still have a big problem and I readily admit it... That [brain injury diagnosis] is a black hole of information that we need to have closed."