Why Medicine Alone Can't Help Our Veterans

As a citizen who enjoys the freedoms provided by our men and women in military uniform, it is very clear to me that we must do more as a nation to help those who are returning with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). As a medical professional and a person who has experienced the effects of TBI through personal injury, it is impossible for me to sit idly by when so many of our returning heroes return with injuries which forever change the very ways they think and process information.

Any injury to the brain, let alone a traumatic one, poses many challenges for the patient. As physicians, our goal is always to treat the underlying cause of injuries, not just the symptoms.

Yet only treating the symptoms is what is happening to many of our heroes, who are returning from experiences and worlds we at home may never fully understand. Veterans with PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) may be prescribed psychotropic medicines or antidepressants. These medications may be even more detrimental to the recovery of a veteran with TBI. In addition, veterans with TBI are often asked to make and track dozens of appointments, often at locations far from their homes, despite the fact that their injury makes it fundamentally more difficult to remember and process information. Healing these heroes is not as easy as writing a prescription then sending them home. It takes time and support.

When I began The Resurrecting Lives Foundation with funds from my own retirement account, my goal was to help solve these problems for the veterans who would give their lives for us. The solutions are simple, and they are available now.

Instead of ignoring the root of the problems, we must provide an integrated wellness approach that assists veterans through every step of their journey toward healing. Such a program could look like this:

  • A complete physical examination by a physician, preferably, a rehabilitation specialist
  • A complete psychological, social and vocational evaluation
  • Evaluations by speech, physical and occupational therapists
  • A complete radiographic diagnostic work-up including Diffusion Tensor Imaging with advanced MRI technology as history and physical suggest
  • A program coordinator (PC) assigned for each person
  • A complete, individually-tailored wellness (ITW) program that incorporates various therapeutic and wellness modalities; anything from exercise, biofeedback, yoga, relaxation exercises, guided imagery, breathing programs, nutrition, vocational planning, etc., all personally designed for the veteran
  • Weekly meetings with the veteran and the PC, including the professional specialists they were working with as needed to track progress
  • Medication review and substance abuse counseling must be included in this healing process, and a detox program planned for those with substance abuse problems -- the goal is to limit medications that affect brain recovery
  • It is unrealistic to expect persons returning with the invisible wounds of war to manage on their own, and medications are not the solution. A personalized wellness therapy program, empowerment and support can make the difference between injury and recovery and often literally life and death.

    This past Veterans Day, Congressman Steve Stivers, (R) of Ohio, and I hosted a Congressional Screening of my documentary Operation Resurrection, which outlined these solutions and more. Together with the support of Congressman Stivers and many more partners, I believe it is possible to make a real and lasting difference in the way we treat and care for our veterans. This is a bipartisan issue. Everyone should be on board.

    We, as a country, can do more. The medical community can do more, and we owe our returning heroes the very best we can provide. Even more important, we owe it to ourselves to support those who sacrificed for our freedoms. They are our future leaders. I encourage you to learn more about how you can help by visiting www.resurrectinglives.org.