Brain Injuries Overlooked at Some Veterans Hospitals

"I don't know whose fault it is -- they dropped the ball. But somebody left me out of the loop, basically," Michael Boothby said.

Dispute Over Number of Injured Vets

According to a July 2006 report from the Veterans Administration inspector general, brain injured veterans often fall through the cracks. It found that "multiple factors lead to suboptimal access to care" and "services are often very limited in communities where injured veterans live."

According to the Department of Defense, there have been about 23,000 nonfatal battlefield casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. But through an internal VA report, Woodruff discovered that there are more than 200,000 veterans who have sought out the VA for care.

"What you have are two sets of books," says Paul Sullivan, who served in the first Gulf War and is now an advocate for Veterans. "The Department of Defense saying that there's 23,000 wounded from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Department of Veterans' Affairs is actually treating 205,000 veterans from these two wars."

Secretary Nicholson seemed to downplay the numbers in his interview with Woodruff.

"A lot of them come in for, for dental problems, others come in for a lot of the, you know, the normal things that people have," he said.

The VA report lists a wide array of injuries, including post traumatic stress disorder, mental disorders, infections and parasitic diseases and ill-defined conditions.

The report does not have a category for traumatic brain injury. (Click here to read the report)

Officially, the Department of Defense says that 1,835 soldiers and Marines have a traumatic brain injury.

The force from an IED or roadside bomb can rattle the brain so severely inside the skull that it can cause life long health problems.

"There's a tremendous number of people who've served, who are at risk for traumatic brain injury, and those are folks who could have been anywhere in the vicinity of the blast," says Rieckhoff.

On Veterans Day 2004, Sgt. Nick Bennett suffered multiple wounds in an explosion in Iraq. His head didn't appear to be injured, but he knew something wasn't quite right and sought out a diagnosis at the VA hospital.

"I went a year and a half, passed all the neuropsych tests. And they're like, 'you know, you're fine,'" recalls Sgt. Bennett, saying since the explosion he has trouble with his memory. "I can't remember appointments. I can tell you, 'I've got something next week,' but who it's with, where it's at, I'm lost."

Bennett was finally diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury last June after he pushed his local VA to be tested again.

It took nearly a year and a half, after his initial injuries, for Bennett to be diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.

His situation brings to light that many more soldiers serving in Iraq or having returned from battle, may be walking around with a traumatic brain injury and not even know it.

Data obtained by ABC News, shows that 10 percent or more of the Marines and soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have possibly sustained a brain injury.

"I can't give you an absolute number, but I think the 10 percent … is a good estimate," Scott said. "But it could be higher."

That could mean of the 1.5 million Americans, who have served or are now serving, more than 150,000 people could have a brain injury that is unrecognized by the Department of Defense.

While all may not need treatment, the Department of Defense is not routinely screening returning soldiers for brain injuries despite calls from some of the department's own brain injury experts.

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