The U.S. House of Representatives today voted to include an amendment to the 2010 National Defense Authorization bill authored by U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8). The amendment would ensure that the same method of cognitive testing for service members is used before they are deployed and after they return home.
"It is simply unacceptable that the Department of Defense thinks they can identify soldiers with brain injuries by simply handing them a post-deployment questionnaire. Too many soldiers have already slipped through the cracks and we cannot allow the "signature injury of the war' to continue to be ignored," said Pascrell, the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.
"Soldiers, including those presently on the battlefield, should get the same cognitive testing when they return home as they did when they were deployed. Experts tell us, and it just makes common sense that the military should use an apples-to-apples comparison of data, not a questionnaire instead of an actual cognitive screening."
The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act required the U.S. Department of Defense to tests soldiers' cognitive ability before and after deployment. The Pentagon authorized sophisticated computerized testing of soldiers before deployment, but did not authorize the same testing for the soldiers when they returned home. The result is that the military cannot effectively determine any changes in soldiers' cognitive abilities.
Rep. Pascrell's bipartisan amendment to the 2010 defense authorization legislation would require the Defense Department to use the same neurocognitive test for assessing a soldier's cognitive ability after deployment. That data would be compared to data from the soldier's pre-deployment baseline test in order to detect any changes to a soldier's brain.
The test currently in use for pres-deployment assessments is the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (ANAM). Rep. Pascrell's amendment also requires the Defense Department to complete studies to find the best assessment tool possible.
The amendment has been endorsed by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association.