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Former Staff Sgt. Kevin Owsley is not quite sure whether it was the roadside bomb that exploded near his Humvee or the rocket-propelled grenade that flung him across a road six weeks later.

After each attack, the 47-year-old Indiana reservist did what many soldiers do in Iraq. He shrugged off the headaches, dizzy spells and ringing in his ears, chalking them up to fatigue or dehydration.

But three years later, Owsley is changed, The New York Times reported Tuesday. He struggles to unscramble his thoughts. He often gets lost on the road, even with directions. He wears a hearing aid, cannot bear sunlight on his eyes, still succumbs to nightmares and considers four hours of sleep a night a gift.

As many as 300,000 — or 20 percent — of combat veterans have suffered at least one concussion, The Times reported, citing the latest Pentagon estimates.

To this day, an unknown number of veterans remain unscreened, the paper noted. Even with traumatic brain injury called the signature injury of the Iraq war, some soldiers and their advocates say that complications from mild concussions often are not recognized.

There is no quantifiable diagnostic test for the injury, and the language used by the Veterans Affairs Department to rate traumatic brain injury is vague, according to the report. The military, in particular, seldom rates each symptom from a concussion, which it is required to do, Kerry Baker, associate national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, told the Times.

"The criteria remains ambiguous," Baker told the Times. "The military way underrates TBI and its symptoms."


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