Who's Helping Our Wounded Vets?

One in five combat soldiers suffers a TBI, who should care for them?

Scot Noss was a star football player for his high school team in Oregon. When he was 21 years old, he joined the military as an Army Ranger, one of the most highly skilled positions in the U.S. Army. He had a vision of what his life was going to be like, and he had a goal. He had a moral obligation, and he didn't falter. RyAnne met Scot when she was in college and he was stationed at nearby Fort Benning, GA. Literally, the moment I met him I knew he was going to be my man. Athletic, stubborn--oh, so stubborn. But he was also a man that had a huge heart, and he loved me with every ounce of his being. They were married 6 years ago, but today their life is very different from most young couples. This is my man right here. They live here, at the VA Hospital in Tampa, where they've been for the last 2-1/2 years. Every morning I walk in that room, and I know I probably scare him half to death, but I just yell, "Hey, Scot!" There you go! Good morning. And he just kind of--like--flinches, I know. But I want him to know that I still am there. I want my presence known to him. Scot has what's known as a traumatic brain injury. According to the Pentagon, a staggering 1 in 5 service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have sustained a brain injury, making it a signature wound of this war. While many cases are more like mild concussions, there are thousands of soldiers with debilitating injuries, including many like Scot, who are left minimally conscious. My husband is still inside of that body somewhere, locked in there. And the reason why I know is when I'm gone, he shuts down. He won't open his eyes, hardly. He'll do horrible in therapies. The moment I'm there, his eyes just pop wide open-- those big, beautiful blue eyes of his, and he starts doing better in therapies. That's why RyAnne is committed to being by his side every day. She has a PhD in chemical engineering but has put her own life on hold to look after him. And her story is not unique. Today, thousands of military family members are giving up careers, health benefits, and their savings to care for wounded veterans. Now, Congress is debating whether we as a country can help compensate these full-time caregivers and make their jobs easier.
Posted on BrainLine March 16, 2010.

Excerpted from "Who's Helping Our Wounded Vets?," Now on PBS. Used with permission. All rights reserved. www.pbs.org/now.