An Aug. 11 LegalView press release says that on July 25, two days after a federal lawsuit was filed in San Francisco accusing the Veterans’ Administration of neglecting its duty to care for U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, a special White House panel made significant recommendations in a special briefing at the Oval Office.
Jim Nicholson is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. After attending the July 25 special briefing, a government press release of the event quotes him as saying: “We at VA are caring for the whole veteran. I look forward to reviewing the commission’s final report as we work to improve our efforts to return our wounded warriors to full function, while helping all veterans receive the jobs and educational benefits they deserve. The men and women who have served this nation in uniform, especially our wounded combat veterans, deserve the best care our country can provide. I am grateful for the contributions of these dedicated Americans intent on helping make our veterans’ programs better and easier to access.”
Nicholson also noted that the VA and the military have been increasing the level of their cooperation since the start of the Global War on Terror. He said the VA treats an increasing number of soldiers still on active duty, shares electronic patient records with military doctors on the most severely injured patients, and has VA personnel at the major military medical centers to ensure a smooth transfer of patients to the VA health care system.
The President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors was created to look at ways the VA and the Department of Defense (DOD) might improve on the care given to wounded U.S. troops returning from active duty in war zones. The Commission was co-chaired by former Sen. Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Commission recommended a significant overhaul of the health care provided to returning troops, specifically those with traumatic brain injuries and mental health issues.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur when there is a blunt force blow to the head or an invasive wound that causes damage to the brain. The Aug. 11 press release says that most Americans who suffer such injuries have been involved in automobile accidents or some kind of fall. However, it’s been said that 65 percent of U.S. soldiers seen at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have a TBI. This extraordinarily high rate of TBIs among soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan is the result of repeated exposure to explosions, especially those from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Although the soldiers’ armor cushions and protects them from hard blows and shrapnel, the shock waves from explosions still reach the brain. These repeated explosions literally cause repeated concussions. The effects of the repeated concussions build up over time, resulting in any number of ongoing problems: physical problems, such as seizures or trouble with motor skills; mental problems, such as memory loss and trouble gathering one’s thoughts to carry on a conversation; emotional problems, such as mood swings and personality changes.
It’s not unusual for these concussion-related symptoms to be overlooked, minimized or disguised because of the presence of more pressing physical injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder, which often comes with a TBI.
Without full support from the military and the Veterans Administration, troops and their families often find themselves financially and emotionally unable to get the help they need. However, all indications are that the VA and DOD are aware of the needs and are actively addressing the areas that have been lacking for far too long.
Press release, LegalView Continues Closely Monitoring Developments in Traumatic Brain Injury Research; http://www.prweb.com/releases/2007/8/prweb546054.htm
Press release, VA Secretary Praises Dole-Shalala Panel; http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=1362