Military veterans face significant risks when it comes to traumatic brain
injuries (TBI) and the long-term, if not life-altering, impact they can
have on their lives. These risks are most strongly associated with military
veterans who served on tours of active duty during their military careers,
and especially among vets who served in the
Iraq and Afghanistan wars, where a prevalence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) made TBI the
signature wound for vets who served in these conflicts. However, there
is a now a growing focus on the brain injury risks associated with military
veterans who participated in heavy weapons training, as well the difficulties
they face in their post-service lives.
Military members who participate in heavy weapons training typically use
shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapons or SMAWs, rocket launchers,
and other weaponry powerful enough burst eardrums for those who don’t
wear military-grade hearing protecting. They also pose significant risks
to the brain. According to studies, military troops that repeatedly fire
powerful shoulder-launched weapons can experience concussion-like symptoms,
including dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and short-term memory and thinking problems.
The Impact of Heavy Weapons & Artillery on the Brain
While the short-term effects of firing heavy weapons and artillery are
obvious and well-known, the risks of long-term brain damage are less clear.
However, as many veterans suspect, their post-service lives have been
impacted by the lasting effects of using those heavy weapons. This is
true of one veteran profiled by
NPR, who along with fellow service members fired hundreds of SMAW rounds in
training exercises across the world. As he notes, firing the weapon, which
is powerful enough to blow up a tank, quickly lost its thrill and became
exhausting on his body.
While the U.S. military does place limitations on the number of rounds
troops can fire from heavy weapons in a single day, those limits are based
on safety concerns involving hearing loss, not injury to the brain. Additionally,
safety policies weren’t taken as seriously years ago, when troops
would fire more rounds than allowed by the book. A culture that encouraged
service members to shake off their injuries and a general lack of understanding
about non-visible internal injuries also contributes to a potential for
Over the years, the Department of Defense has spent tremendous amounts
of money studying military-related brain injuries. While research first
focused on blast exposure and bombs like the IEDs used in Afghanistan
and Iraq, it soon expanded to gauge the effects of field weapons like
the SMAW. That research may prove beneficial to military veterans in the
future, but to those who have been and are currently struggling with how
those weapons affect their brains, many say the VA should be doing more.
Uncertainties About VA Coverage
Although many vets report TBI symptoms that impact their daily lives –
from headaches, balance and orientation issues, and memory problems to
difficulties concentrating and controlling emotions – the fact that
they never suffered an obvious injury or were never in combat makes it
unclear in the VA’s eyes whether they are entitled to care.
According to experts, the VA shortchanges vets in these categories by focusing
only on physical injuries and blasts that occur on active duty. While
medical professionals would focus on treating a vet’s symptoms,
regardless of how they may have been caused, current VA policies fall
short in providing care, therapy, and resources to help vets improve their
lives, simply because they prioritize vets with medical issues clearly
linked to their service. For many vets, that means that until more research
becomes available, they are often forced to pay out of pocket for the
care they need, or not receive any at all.
Fighting for Vets in Civilian Personal Injury Lawsuits
Our legal team at Biren Law Group is intimately involved in
supporting military veterans and organizations like the
MVAT Foundation which raise support and awareness for issues faced by vets in their civilian
lives. This includes our representation of veterans who are injured in
preventable accidents as civilians, and who experience setbacks associated
with service-connected issues such as
TBI. Because the struggles these vets face are real and profound, we are passionate
about protecting their rights and interests, and to helping them seek
special damages in their personal injury cases.
If you would like more information about the rights of veterans in personal
injury lawsuits, or wish to discuss a potential case anywhere throughout
Los Angeles or Southern California,
contact us to speak with a member of our team. Consultations are free and confidential.