Wounded Inaction

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Given the amazing medical facilities the U.S. military has in Afghanistan and Iraq, medical evacuations of U.S. troops from those countries are reserved for only the most seriously wounded or sick. Between 2001 and last October 1, some 2 million Americans served in the war zones; 62,087 of them had to be evacuated for medical care. Only 11,711 of them — 18.9 percent — were wounded in combat. Check out the two green lines bouncing along the bottom of the chart above — those are the WIAs — wounded in action — from our wars. The other pair of much-higher black lines are for non-combat ailments and injuries.

“During each month of the nine-year period…there were more medical evacuations for conditions unrelated to battle than for battle-related injuries,” a new Pentagon report says. Bum backs and knees accounted for 16.3% of such evacuations; non-combat injuries, largely fractures and sprains, were responsible for 14.5%; mental disorders, including PTSD, represented 11.1%, and so-called “signs, symptoms and ill-defined conditions” accounted for 10.2%.

The report notes that the share of evacuations for mental disorders tripled in Iraq from 7.2% in 2003 to 22% last year; in Afghanistan they nearly doubled from 6.5% in 2006 to 11.9% in 2008. “The recent increase in mental disorder-related evacuations from Iraq,” it adds, “may reflect at least in part increased awareness of, concern regarding, and health care resources dedicated to detecting and clinically managing psychological and stress-related disorders (e.g., PTSD, depression, suicide ideation) among deployers.”