Crapo Pushes VA on Veterans' Brain Injuries
Idaho Senator Mike Crapo says veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts need increased treatment and attention regarding traumatic brain injury (TBI). This type of injury has been described as the "signature wound" of the recent Mideast conflicts because of the use of roadside bombs and other explosive devices that have been unique to the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"My staff and I have spoken with hundreds of veterans suffering the effects of concussive injuries, such as those that are the result of roadside explosions," Crapo said. "The Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Act directs the Veterans Administration to develop individualized recovery and treatment programs for this specific type of injury."
Last May, a Pentagon task force warned that the military health system is overburdened and not sufficient to meet the needs of troops suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and other psychological problems. Several VA hospitals and treatment centers did not have workers trained in elements of closed-head wounds such as PTSD and TBI, and this legislation seeks to address those issues.
Crapo notes that TBIs are more prevalent in these wars due to better armor that men and women are wearing in combat, as well as better medical attention in the field. He says, while many more lives have been saved than in previous wars, there is now an increase of wounded vets. Scientists suggest that the number of soldiers returning with TBI is due to increased awareness, but also that many soldiers who suffered a TBI in previous wars may have died in combat.
"I've been in close contact with the families of a number of Idaho veterans and families with concerns about the debilitating effect of traumatic brain injury," Crapo added. "I'm pleased to support this important legislation, along with my colleague Senator Craig, that aims to address some of the challenges to diagnosis, treatment and long-term care of our wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan."
The legislation, S. 1233, was originally introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. It would authorize $3 million annually through 2012 to address traumatic brain injury research and treatment, and requires the Secretary of Defense to report back to Congress on the findings.