According to the Defense Department, more than 250,000 service members have suffered from traumatic brain injury, which can lead to several life-changing illnesses. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that they proposed new regulations that would help veterans receive health care and compensation for five illnesses that have been linked to TBI, according to the New York Times. Although the proposal has to undergo a 60-day public comment period, thousands of veterans might be able to become eligible for the expanded benefits.
Although a number of recent reports and news stories regarding TBI in the military site blast exposure as the common cause of TBI, a large number of injuries are also sustained from nondeployed troops who were injured in training accidents, vehicle crashes, and other forms of impact. Despite the large number of troops who suffer from TBI, only about 20 percent currently receive military benefits for service-connected TBIs.
Veterans who suffer from Parkinsonism, unprovoked seizures, certain dementias, depression and hormone deficiency diseases related to the hypothalamus, pituitary or adrenal glands may be eligible for the benefits laid out in the proposal. The current benefits system requires a veteran with one of these illnesses to provide medical evidence that the disease is service-connected, but the new rule could help speed up cases so the veterans can get health benefits sooner.
However, there are some restrictions on eligibility. Only veterans that suffer a moderate or severe TBI will be considered for additional compensation and health care. The Department of Veteran Affairs isn’t including mild TBIs since a 2008 study concluded that evidence for the link between the five illnesses and mild TBI is “limited or suggestive.” Veterans who are classified with severe TBI experienced a loss of consciousness or memory for more than 24 hours. While the new proposal will also consider giving the expanded benefits to veterans of prior wars, it’s expected that the clarified restrictions will garner some criticism from veteran’s groups.
After the 60 days of comments and considerations, a final regulation will be published, and the department officials don’t anticipate a huge wave of additional claims but hope that the regulations will simplify cases for veterans that need benefits. Eric K. Shineski, secretary of veterans’ affairs, explains that “veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence that ensure they receive benefits earned through their service to the country.”