By Bill Briggs
NBC News contributor
Traumatic brain injuries sustained by more than 200,000 U.S. troops during combat explosions may be fueling the military’s suicide crisis, according to a letter co-signed by 53 congressional members who are seeking additional data to investigate the new theory.
In the letter, sent Tuesday to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, the lawmakers urged both agencies to provide Congress with a raft of figures, including the number of Iraq and Afghanistan service members and veterans who committed suicide or tried to end their lives after being brain injured by the detonation of an improvised explosive device — “the weapon of choice” in both wars.
“Evidence has suggested that blast injuries, including but not limited to those causing damage to vision or hearing, can have a severe psychological impact ... that can play a major contributing role in suicides,” read the bi-partisan letter.