In a statement Wednesday, the Pentagon gave a different definition that included casualty descriptions by severity and type and said most medical evacuations did not count. "The great majority of service members medically evacuated from Operation Iraqi Freedom are not casualties, by either Department of Defense definitions or the common understanding of the average newspaper reader." It cited such ailments as "muscle strain, back pain, kidney stones, diarrhea and persistent fever" as non-casualty evacuations. "Casualty reports released to the public are generally confined to fatalities and those wounded in action," the statement said. A veterans' advocate said the Pentagon should make a full reporting of the casualties, including non-combat ailments and injuries. "They are still casualties of war," said Mike Schlee, director of the National Security and Foreign Relations Division at the American Legion. "I think we have to have an honest disclosure of what the short- and long-term casualties of any conflict are."Mental injuries, the part of every war most hawks would rather not talk about, also appears to be a major issue.
Among veterans from Iraq seeking help from the VA, 5,375 have been diagnosed with a mental problem, making it the third-leading diagnosis after bone problems and digestive problems. Among the mental problems were 800 soldiers who became psychotic. A military study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 16 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq might suffer major depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Around 11 percent of soldiers returning from Afghanistan may have the same problems, according to that study.