Iraq war vets' brain injuries vex Akaka
A newsman's plight prompts the senator to seek more funds for the VA's services
Citing a TV news special by wounded journalist Bob Woodruff, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka says he wants Congress to approve $300 million more for the Veterans Administration to treat brain injuries.
Akaka, chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, alleged in a news release yesterday that the Bush administration has underestimated the cost of caring for veterans who have suffered brain injuries and other severe wounds. He added that the Veterans Administration was "wholly unprepared" to deal with veterans returning from Iraq.
Akaka, D-Hawaii, issued the statement in response to a television news special Tuesday night featuring Woodruff, the ABC News anchor and reporter who suffered a brain injury while reporting in Iraq.
The program highlighted Woodruff's recovery and showed how veterans with similar brain injuries are coping back home.
"Looking at these young soldiers with such devastating injuries, we are reminded of the true costs of war," Akaka said.
The senator said he would raise his strong concerns about government care for troops with brain injuries when he meets Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson today.
Woodruff was riding in an Iraqi army tank in Taji, Iraq, his head and upper body exposed through the hatch, when a roadside bomb went off nearby early last year.
He later fell into a 36-day coma. When he woke up, he couldn't name any of the 50 states and did not remember his twin 6-year-old daughters.
Two-thirds of Tuesday's special was about how the U.S. government is dealing with veterans returning with brain injuries. Several families argued the federal government was unprepared and was underestimating the number of people returning with brain problems.
Akaka said the Veterans Administration has improved its brain injury care centers but still has much more to do.
"Many of these men and women are quite young and will be living with brain injuries for the rest of their lives," Akaka said. "VA must do more than simply send them back to their communities."