US and Allied Wounded

As in every war, the wounded are far more numerous than those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. As with the dead in these wars, United States forces have suffered grievously as have allied forces. Common combat injuries have included second and third degree burns, broken bones, shrapnel wounds, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, paralysis, loss of sight and hearing, post traumatic stress disorder, and amputations.  

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The true count of Americans injured or sickened in the war is much larger – by orders of magnitude – than the figures given on the official Department of Defense casualty website. That official total – over 52,000 – includes only those “wounded in action.” Not included are those suffering what are categorized as “non-hostile injuries” and other medical problems, which include heat stroke, suicide attempts, respiratory problems, and vehicle crashes. While some baseline number of injuries and illnesses would have occurred in any case, many of the latter should be considered a result of the wars, and therefore as much a combat injury, broadly speaking, as IED (improvised explosive device) injuries. 

The true numbers of the injured are significantly higher even than this, given that many problems, including traumatic brain injury and PTSD, are not diagnosed and treated until the injured return home. In one recent study, 15 percent of all Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans were found to have suffered a traumatic brain injury [1]. According to Veterans Health Administration data collected by Veterans for Common Sense, from 2002 through December 2013, approximately 338,294 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who came for care at a VA facility were diagnosed with PTSD. [2] Diagnosed rates of depression and PTSD may represent just one half of all actual cases given veterans’ inability or reluctance to be assessed or treated or their treatment outside the VA system. [3] New evidence of toxic dust exposure and resulting respiratory, cardiac, and neurological disease suggests another large segment of war zone-induced illness has yet to be fully recognized.

All of this makes it very difficult to estimate the number of  those US service members injured in the wars. Figures for the wounded among allied forces and contractors are even more difficult to come by. (Page updated as of May 2014) 

ARTICLE

[1] Michael S. Baker, “Casualties of the Global War on Terror and Their Future Impact on Health Care and Society: A Looming Public Health Crisis.” Military Medicine, Vol. 179, April 2014, pp. 348-55.

[2] Department of Veterans Affairs, Report on VA Facility Specific Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) Veterans Diagnosed with Potential or Provisional PTSD, Cumulative from 1st Qtr FY 2002 through 1st Qtr FY 2014 (October 1, 2001 – December 31, 2013).” Released March 2014. http://www.vetlawyers.com/update-va-releases-new-iraq-and-afghanistan-war-healthcare-and-claim-reports/.

[3] Michael S. Baker, “Casualties of the Global War on Terror and Their Future Impact on Health Care and Society: A Looming Public Health Crisis.” Military Medicine, Vol. 179, April 2014, pp. 348-55.

[4] Hannah Fischer, “A Guide to U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom.” Congressional Research Service, 7-5700, February 19, 2014.

[5] Luis Martinez, “U.S. Veterans:  By the Numbers,” (2011), http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-veterans-numbers/story?id=14928136#1.

INFOGRAPHIC

[1] Department of Defense, “Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) U.S. Casualty Status,” Fatalities as of: May 22, 2014, 10 a.m. EDT; Department of Defense, “Operation New Dawn (OND) U.S. Casualty Status,” Fatalities as of: May 22, 2014, 10 a.m. EDT; Department of Defense, “Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) U.S. Casualty Status,” Fatalities as of: May 22, 2014, 10 a.m. EDT, at http//www.defense.gove/news/casualty.pdf.

[2] Ibid.

[3] VBA Office of Performance Analysis and Integrity, “VA Benefits Activity, Veterans Deployed to the Global War on Terror,” VBA Data through Mar 2014, DMDC Data through Jan 2014. Prepared April 2014.