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Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2009

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, traumatic brain injury is one of the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there is much to be accomplished. For the estimated 320,000 soldiers who have sustained a brain injury, the war will not end when the last shots are fired. For this reason, I applaud the committee for its work to make progress in treating veterans with TBI.

As co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, I am proud to say that we have accomplished a lot over the past year in honoring our commitment to soldiers and veterans with brain injuries. The Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury opened its doors in November. The FY 2008 Defense Authorization established new TBI programs for rehabilitation, reintegration, research, and civilian-military cooperation. We reauthorized the Traumatic Brain Injury Act in April, establishing new connections between HHS, the Department of Defense, and the VA. And now this month, all soldiers will begin to receive pre-deployment cognitive assessments establishing individual baselines against which each soldier can be properly screened for a brain injury so that they may receive the care that they need and deserve.

In this bill, the committee has recognized the need to improve care for veterans with TBI by fostering cooperation between DOD and VA through joint programs, by improving the ability to track patients diagnosed with TBI, and by encouraging systemic TBI screening for veterans. New research is, however, showing that there is considerable overlap in the occurrence of brain injury and mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, the Rand Corp. recently estimated that as many as 27 percent of soldiers with PTSD and depression have also sustained a brain injury.

In light of these disturbing figures, Mr. Chairman, would you be willing to work in the Conference with the Senate on language to recognize the relationship between and co-occurrence of TBI and PTSD among our armed services?

I want to thank the gentleman from Texas and his staff for working so hard on this legislation and making a commitment to our injured veterans. Our soldiers have fulfilled their duties bravely and honorably, and they deserve nothing less than treatment and care that is commensurate with the heroic deeds they have undertaken.


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