VA Secretary Offers Support for Vets Suffering TBI

Written by Susan Oliver Nelson for USMilitary.com

Good news for veterans who suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The Veterans Affairs Department announced that more than 24,000 vets may qualify to be reexamined for brain injuries. Following a review of TBI exams completed in relation with disability claims managed from 2007-2015, VA Secretary Robert McDonald decided to grant what is called “equitable relief” to veterans.

Some post 9/11 vets with TBI who’ve been denied disability compensation by the VA between 2007 and 2015 have another chance to receive benefits. If found that they have experienced TBI, veterans will be awarded prorated compensation from the date of the initial claim without having to complete any additional forms.

In a released statement, McDonald said, “Providing support for veterans suffering from a TBI is a priority and a privilege, and we must make certain they receive a just and fair rating for their disabilities.”

In 2007, to ensure proper evaluation of TBI when there is no prior diagnosis, the VA began requiring vets to get medical assessments for TBI from one of four specialists- a neurologist, neurosurgeon, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Officials for the VA stated that the department issued guidance documents that may “have created confusion regarding the assessment policy.” This confusion may have resulted in a sizable number of former service members being denied benefits or receiving a lower rating for their disability.

TBI is oftentimes referred to as the “signature wound” of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, occurring after sudden trauma or head injuries that disrupts the function of the brain commonly caused by improvised explosive devises (IEDs), falls or the tough Humvee patrols while in full battle-rattle.

“Traumatic Brain Injury is a signature injury in Veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and VA is proud to be an organization that sets the bar high for supporting these, and all, Veterans,” said Secretary McDonald.

When the brain is injured, the person can experience a change in consciousness that can range from becoming disoriented and confused, to slipping into a coma. The person might also have memory loss for the time immediately before or after the event that cause the injury.

Equitable relief is a unique legal remedy that allows the Secretary to correct an injustice to a claimant where the VA is not otherwise authorized to do so within the scope of the law. “We let these veterans down,” McDonald said. “That is why we are taking every step necessary to grant equitable relief to those affected to ensure they receive the full benefits to which they are entitled.”

According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, the DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI has exceeded 344,000 TBI diagnosis.

Veterans who qualify for the new exam will be contacted by the VA. The department said more than half of the veterans already are receiving some level of benefits.

Written by Susan Oliver Nelson

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