Nightly News | May 27, 2012
>>> and some sobering numbers out tonight about veterans in the wars in iraq and afghanistan. the associated press reported they are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate. 45% seeking compensation for their injuries. which brings us to a fascinating look at how some of the wounded are getting cutting-edge help and a new lease on life. nbc's chief science correspondent robert bizel has that story.
>> reporter: padilla fought with a combat team in afghanistan. the unit profiled in the award-winning war documentary. he was struck by a rocket in 2007 .
>> right away i knew i had lost my arm. the only thing i was hoping for, or praying for is, telling god that please let me see my wife and kid one more time.
>> reporter: he was reunited with his family.
>> it offers up to 14 different ways to close and open.
>> reporter: to replace lost arms, prosthetic specialist ryan spill, and the researchers at advanced arm dynamics.
>> this is called a power grip.
>> reporter: a bionic hand . giving upper extremity amputees, like sergeant padilla , even more dexterity.
>> three months later i was playing catch, skiing, golfing, and doing a bunch of other stuff.
>> how long are you in the prosthesis?
>> probably six to eight hours.
>> reporter: clinicians work with each patient to meet their specific needs and interests.
>> this one is more of like a survival arm.
>> reporter: this triathlete lost his arm in a drive-by shooting. and helped devise this prosthetic, with a built-in compass, swiss army knife , flashlight. even an ipod.
>> the standard of care 25 years ago was a mechanical hook. now with some of the new electronic hands, we have all sorts of different brass patterns and the amount of effort that a patient uses to be able to operate that type of hand is much less.
>> reporter: getting ever closer to the natural arm lost by so many wounded warriors like padilla .
>> how is the speed of this compared to the other?
>> reporter: robert bizel, nbc news, philadelphia.