Trump 'won't be changing his mind' on TBIs

Elizabeth Howe
February 11, 2020 - 1:03 pm

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President Donald Trump is standing by his assessment of the injuries from the Iranian missile strike as "not serious" even after the Pentagon announced last Friday that the number of injured service members has exceeded 100. 

Initially following the Jan. 8 Iranian missile strike on U.S. personnel in Iraq, the military and the president both released statements claiming no injuries resulted from the strike. In the month since, the number of diagnosed traumatic brain injuries has increased repeatedly — the most recent update released on Friday identified 109 troops diagnosed with TBIs. 

Pentagon now says 109 troops diagnosed with TBIs from Iran missile strike

As additional injuries continued to come to light, Trump was asked why he did not initially share information about troops injured in the attack. He responded that the concussive injuries sustained were "not serious" injuries "relative to other injuries" he had seen. He said he heard they had "headaches."

Members of Congress and veteran service organizations released statements in response to Trump's representation of TBIs. The Veterans of Foreign Wars stated that they expected an apology. 

"The VFW expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks," VFW National Commander William Schmitz said in a statement. "And we ask that he and the White House join with us in our efforts to educate Americans of the dangers TBI has on these heroes as they protect our great nation in these trying times. Our warriors require our full support more than ever in this challenging environment."

The VFW wants Trump to apologize for what he said about TBI injuries

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., co-chair and founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force asked the Department of Defense to "reiterate its commitment to the seriousness of brain injuries on the battlefield and elsewhere." 

Congressman asks DoD to 'strongly affirm its commitment to treatment of brain injuries

But Trump said in an interview with Fox on Monday that he would not be changing his mind about TBIs. 

"I saw the missiles. We saw them going...They landed in a way that they didn't hit anybody," Trump told Fox. "And then a couple of weeks later I started hearing about people having to do with trauma, head trauma. That exists. But it's, you know, I viewed it a little bit differently than most, and I won't be changing my mind on that."

‘Not just headaches:’ Scientist studies military TBIs, the injury that killed her husband.

From the perspective of the Department of Defense's injury classification system, Trump's description is not inaccurate, Gen. Mark Milley explained at a Pentagon press briefing in the weeks after the attack. The three categories of wounded in action, “very serious injuries,” “serious injuries,” and “not-serious injuries” help military medical personnel decide what type of care is necessary. Currently, the TBIs suffered by those in Iraq, are labeled as a “not-serious injury.”

Other members of Congress have similarly defended Trump's statement, discussing Trump's description of TBIs as accurate. 

"He's not dismissing their injuries. He's describing their injuries," Army veteran Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told CBS News. "If they are, in fact, if all these injuries are not serious, if they're all on the less serious side of the scale than the severe traumatic side of the scale, the president is just describing what happened there. He was not dismissing them."

Of the 109 service members injured in the blast, 76 have returned to duty. Of the remainder still receiving treatment, some have been transported to the U.S. for treatment and others are still being evaluated in Germany. 

“The Defense Department is steadfast in its efforts to deliver programs and services intended to lead to the best possible outcomes for our service members,” Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a statement Monday following the most recent update. “We are grateful to the efforts of our medical professionals who have worked diligently to ensure the appropriate level of care for our service members, which has enabled nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty. We must continue to address physical and mental health together.”

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