Bob Woodruff: Turning Personal Injury Into Public Inquiry


It's there he meets Army Sgt. William Glass, who, like Woodruff, was struck by an insurgent's roadside bomb in Taji, Iraq, and suffered traumatic brain injury. When Glass' wife, Amelia, asks Woodruff how long it took him to recover, the reporter says, "It's still going on."

Many of the families Woodruff met with across the country express frustration at the lack of care TBI patients receive once they leave specialized rehabilitation centers and return home. Woodruff asks Secretary of Veteran's Affairs Jim Nicholson about the ability of local VA hospitals to care for brain-injured servicemen. "We have organized the VA with this priority for these combatants returning back," Nicholson says.

But following brain-injured Army Sgt. Michael Boothby from Bethesda back to the soldier's hometown of Comfort, Texas, Woodruff watches Boothby's condition quickly deteriorate as he awaits the arrival of the paperwork that would allow him to continue his treatment.

While the U.S. Department of Defense says that there have been about 23,000 nonfatal battlefield casualties in Iraq, Woodruff discovers -- through an internal VA report -- that more than 200,000 veterans have sought medical care for various ailments, including more than 73,000 diagnoses for mental disorders.

Nicholson plays down those figures, telling Woodruff, "A lot of them come in for dental problems. … We're providing their health care."

Woodruff reports that even these numbers may not tell the whole story: According to unreleased data from the Department of Defense, at least 10 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans may have sustained a brain injury during their service.

The ABC News anchor reports: "That could mean that of the 1.5 million who have served or are now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 150,000 people could have a brain injury that may be undiagnosed and unrecognized by the casualty numbers from the Department of Defense."

While everyone with symptoms of a brain injury may not need extensive treatment, Woodruff learns that the Department of Defense is not screening all returning soldiers, despite recommendations from the Defense Department's own Defense and Veteran's Brain Injury Center.

Woodruff says that he and others at ABC News will continue to report on this story because "the human cost of war is sometimes overlooked," and injured veterans "need support that matches their sacrifice."

When asked today if would return to Iraq, Woodruff said his wife would have the final word. As he thought aloud about the idea, ABC News President David Westin chimed in: "I will not send him," Westin said. "It just would not make sense. He's more vulnerable than he was before. It would be the height of recklessness, from my point of view, to allow Bob Woodruff to go back to Iraq."

Woodruff joked that he would have to go "without" Westin.

Bob and Lee Woodruff have established a fund to assist members of the military who are suffering from brain injuries. To learn more, click here: Bob Woodruff Family Fund.

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