Over the past decade the Department of Veterans Affairs has seen a large increase in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) by Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They now propose to add 5 conditions that, if a patient is diagnosed with as related to military service, would be considered as related to TBI received during their service. If this were made possible it would accelerate the process it takes for veterans to become diagnosed with and receive treatment for these conditions.
The change was based on a 2008 report from the Institute of Medicine that reported having found “sufficient evidence of an association” between moderate to severe levels of TBI and the conditions in question. Among this list of TBI-related conditions are unprovoked seizures, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, certain types of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and hormone deficiencies caused by changes of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. While the extent to which these conditions are service-related will have to be on a case by case basis, but ultimately more veterans plagued by these conditions will have answers to the cause’s behind them and quicker access to the proper treatment and help in managing them.
“We must always decide veterans’ disability claims based on the best science available, and we will, veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence that ensure they receive benefits earned through their service to the country,” said Eric Shinseki secretary of the Veterans Administration. The change was brought
From 2000 to 2012 over 250,000 service members have been diagnosed with suffering a TBI. Of these, 194,000 have been classified as “mild”. Around 42,000 have suffered a “moderate” TBI, which is considered as a “confused or disoriented state that lasts more than 24 hours but less than seven days” and can also be seen in brain images. 2,527 have received a severe TBI, and 3,949 had a penetrating wound to the head.
Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, a newly elected Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, issued a statement saying “While this announcement is a positive step forward, VA needs to be prepared for the new claims, which could stress an already backlogged and overwhelmed claims process.”
With the issue of backlog being of big concern for many in the VA, Persian Gulf War veteran and spokesman for the law firm Bergmann & Moore, which handles disability claims, Paul Sullivan said of the new regulation ,“What this does is make it easier for VA to process the claim with one less evidentiary step. And it established a framework for considering other conditions secondary to TBI.”
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