Monday, February 26, 2007

ABC News Tuesday: Bob Woodruff Returns

A timely and much-anticipated return to ABC News by Bob Woodruff, the embedded Iraq reporter and anchor who was gravely injured when an IED struck the vehicle he and his cameraman were riding in last year, takes place Tuesday night.

"To Iraq and Back" airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET and promises to be especially significant in view of recent reporting by both the Washington Post and Newsweek revealing deep institutional problems at both the VA and DoD -- organizations entrusted with the safety, care and rehabilitation of our returning troops:

Amid highly personal stories of tragedy and triumph, Woodruff delves into the crisis of care faced by so many injured soldiers and their families, uncovering important new information about veterans suffering from brain injuries and the care the U.S. government provides. Woodruff meets soldiers who, after fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, must fight bureaucratic red tape before receiving the treatment they need, and others who may not even know they're injured, as traumatic brain injury can go unrecognized.

Catch an early glimpse of Woodruff on Good Morning America on Tuesday morning in an interview with Diane Sawyer. Send video questions to Woodruff, and then visit the hourlong documentary's main page for much, much more coverage.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

From ABC News:

The Human Cost of War

Later in Tuesday night's hour, Woodruff returns to Bethesda once again — this time in a more-familiar role: that of a journalist. 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.

Welcome back, Mr. Woodruff, and thank you for your fine reporting. We'll be watching!

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