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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Pentagon Launches Outreach Initiative Addressing Risks of Blast Exposure from Weapon Usage

The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have launched an extensive outreach campaign following increasing evidence of potential health risks to troops resulting from exposure to blasts from their own weapons. This initiative comes in response to revelations by The New York Times about brain injuries suffered by troops due to intense weapons fire. The government has contacted thousands of veterans, informed veterans’ services offices in all 50 states about potential injuries, and established a website offering the latest research on blast exposure and a fact sheet on recognizing associated brain injuries.

In recent years, Congress has mandated the military to study and track potential risks from weapons blasts, leading to the creation of an office to coordinate research and safety. The Department of Defense stated that the health and safety of service members, including protection from unnecessary blast exposure impacts, is a top priority.

The New York Times reported brain injuries among troops who fired thousands of artillery rounds during the offensive against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria in 2016 and 2017. The military reportedly failed to recognize harm from blast exposure for years, neglecting or dismissing affected troops with brain injuries. In some cases, troops were punished for not meeting standards and stripped of veterans’ benefits.

Following the publication of these findings, the Department of Veterans Affairs took several actions. It alerted thousands of veterans involved in the offensive against the Islamic State that injuries from weapons blasts could be treated at veterans hospitals. The department reached out to veterans cut off from benefits coverage and reconsidered cases, including that of Andrew Johnson, an Army sergeant who faced misdiagnosis and struggles upon returning home, ultimately living in his car. After The New York Times reported on his case, Veterans Affairs found his service honorable, enabling him to access veterans’ health care, disability pension, and housing benefits.

The under secretary for veterans’ benefits at the Veterans Affairs Department, Joshua Jacobs, stressed the importance of finding veterans in need and providing them with necessary assistance.

This extensive outreach campaign by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs aims to address the challenges faced by veterans exposed to blast injuries. The initiative reflects a commitment to prioritizing the health and safety of service members and ensuring that those affected receive the support and care they require. As the government takes steps to raise awareness and provide resources, it underscores the ongoing efforts to address the consequences of blast exposure on veterans and emphasizes the importance of recognizing and treating these injuries.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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