A decade of silence on the unseen human cost of the war in Afghanistan has been broken today after the Federal Government revealed - in detail for the first time - the full litany of wounds and injuries suffered by our Diggers.
The extensive list, obtained exclusively by The Weekend West from the Department of Veterans' Affairs, provides a graphic breakdown of the wounds and injuries that 920 Australian troops have received compensation for.
The new figures show that of the 3400 Afghanistan-related claims received by Veterans' Affairs over the past decade, compensation was paid on 287 for mental trauma, including post traumatic stress and depression.
A further 186 accepted claims were for physical injuries including amputation, gunshot wounds and stab wounds, abrasions, lacerations and burns. Successful claims for fractures, commonly caused by the Taliban's home-made bombs, numbered 164.
Varying degrees of hearing loss accounted for 335 accepted claims, with alcohol or drug dependence as a result of service in Afghanistan totalling 31.
WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said yesterday the new figures should be factored in alongside the 28 deaths and official tally of 182 wounded, when weighing up the cost of the war.
"The (182 wounded) figure from Defence is what people assumed to be the total toll," he said. "These figures reveal the reality is almost five times worse. Whether fighting the war is a bad idea or not, we deserve to know what the cost is."
The unprecedented insight came as Veterans' Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon yesterday revealed that from October, his department would staff permanent advisory service centres on 25 Defence bases around Australia to help wounded and injured Diggers make the difficult transition back to civilian life.
Former SAS Corporal and Afghanistan veteran Peter Later, who also works as a pension officer for the SAS Association, said the figures illustrated why it was imperative that the Government improve the way it cares for injured Diggers.
He said the figures showed "the need was there," for the Government to establish an independent body which would be accountable for guiding soldiers from Defence to the Veterans' Affairs system.
Mr Snowdon said the compensation figures specifically relating to Afghanistan had never been released before because they were sensitive for some individuals, and that there "had been no demand to," until now.He said the "far from perfect" medical records system used by Defence, which does not centrally collect medical data for analysis on injuries internally or from Veteran's Affairs, was being overhauled.
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