CRAIG'S TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY AMENDMENT ADOPTED
Legislation offered by U.S. Senators Larry Craig and Daniel Akaka to provide better treatment for those with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) was unanimously adopted last week on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Their amendment is now a part of the National Defense Authorization Act currently being debated on the floor of the Senate.
"I recently visited with wounded troops at the Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. The vast majority had been injured by roadside bombs and some were clearly suffering from head trauma. Making sure that our troops receive the best treatment we can provide is my goal as a legislator. I believe the language we adopted will help us achieve that objective," said Craig, the lead Republican on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Under the amendment, VA officials would be able to place veterans with brain injuries into medical facilities outside the VA hospital system. "We want those with TBI to receive the best care available. The focus must be on providing the best care we can, wherever that may be," Craig said.
The amendment also calls for VA to conduct more research into the treatment of serious brain trauma and would establish a pilot program for assisted living services for veterans with severe brain injuries. The amendment also requires VA to provide age-appropriate nursing home care to veterans with severe TBI.
In addition to improving care for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, it also requires that an initial mental health evaluation be provided to veterans or returning servicemembers no later than 30 days following a request for such an evaluation. The legislation would also create a demonstration project to identify members of the Armed Forces on active duty who are at risk of becoming homeless upon discharge or release from active duty, and to provide referral, counseling, and support services to prevent them from becoming homeless.
The legislation also enhances the importance of the National Guard and Reserve in VA's outreach programs. In addition, the amendment would expand the window of time servicemembers have to seek dental care from VA upon their release - from the present 90 days to 180 days following discharge from active duty. The bill also extends the period of eligibility for health care for combat veterans from two years to five years after discharge or release.
"Right now combat veterans - whether injured in combat or not - are given priority status when going to a VA hospital or clinic. Under our legislation, they will continue to be a priority for a longer period of time to address any latent emerging medical needs," Craig said.