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Public Statements

Traumatic Brain Injury Health Enhancement and Long-Term Support Act of 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY HEALTH ENHANCEMENT AND LONG-TERM SUPPORT ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 23, 2007)

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 2199) to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide certain improvements in the treatment of individuals with traumatic brain injuries, and for other purposes, as amended.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 3 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, I would point out this is one of the most important bills on the floor today or at any time. It's called the Traumatic Brain Injury Health Enhancement and Long-Term Support Act of 2007.

The wounded from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are returning with multiple injuries due to the use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. This often results in service members and veterans needing polytrauma care, and has caused an increase in veterans with brain injury, or TBI.

We are going to have tens of thousands of these young men and women with these injuries. Among veterans and service members that return from OEF and OIF and treated at Walter Reed for injuries of any type, approximately 65 percent have TBI or a comorbid, as they call it, diagnosis. Survivors of TBI experience physical, cognitive, emotional and community integration issues. Because of their injury, their capacity and initiative to seek appropriate care on their own is diminished.

We are also faced with thousands of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with milder cases of brain injury. This milder case often is missed and goes untreated, and symptoms may often mirror that of PTSD. Indeed, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, in prior military conflicts, TBI was present in up to 14 to 20 percent of surviving casualties. The numbers for operations in OEF/OIF are predicted to go much, much higher.

We must ensure that the health care and services that meet the needs of returning service members are available and accessible, while never forgetting the needs of veterans from previous conflicts. This bill provides for mandatory screening of veterans for traumatic brain injury. It requires the Secretary to establish a comprehensive program of long-term care, of postacute traumatic brain injury rehabilitation at four geographically disbursed polytrauma network sites. It provides for the establishment of TBI transition offices at each Department polytrauma network site to coordinate health care and services to veterans who suffer from moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries. It requires the Secretary to establish a registry of those who served in Iraq who exhibit symptoms associated with TBI.

This legislation establishes centers for TBI research, education and clinical activities, and requires the Secretary to establish a committee on the care of veterans with TBI. In addition to the provisions that address health care, research and treatment for veterans, this legislation also provides for veterans who reside in rural areas.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very important bill. We will hear soon from Mr. Michaud, the chairman of our Health Subcommittee, who was the primary author of this, who has been a leader to make sure that we serve the veterans who come back with these incredible injuries, that they receive the proper care that they need.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, let me just conclude by saying like everything else about this war, the administration did not prepare either for the fighting, the aftermath, or the treatment of the veterans coming back. We simply left thousands of our veterans without adequate resources to treat these brain injuries or PTSD or other issues that arise. No matter what denial that comes from the minority party, no matter what denial comes from the administration, we have not prepared for adequate treatment of these veterans. We are passing legislation today to do that, and we will not deny that there will be thousands and thousands of brain-injured veterans. We should bring them home now and we should treat them well when they get back.

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