Why Some Veterans Didn’t Receive Benefits for TBI


Some veterans did not receive the benefits they deserved after having a TBI. This is due to not being examined by a qualified specialist. (Flickr / Creative Commons / Travis Wise)

There have been 347,962 traumatic brain injuries in service men since the year 2000, according to the Department of Defense. Even the most common kind, a mild TBI, or concussion, can cause lasting negative effects. Concussions can cause cognitive deficits, like memory impairment, and headaches.

Despite the severity of these kinds of injuries, some veterans are not receiving the benefits they deserve after having a TBI. This is because some of the diagnoses of brain injury, or lack thereof, were being done by unqualified personnel.

The diagnosis of TBI must be done by a physiatrist, psychiatrist, neurologist, or neurosurgeon. This leaves about 24,000 veterans who did not have their exams done by qualified professionals. It could have been that there were not enough specialists on hand at the time that were qualified to make a TBI diagnosis. However, Veterans Affairs is trying to make this right.

Last month, the VA said it would send letters to these 24,000 veterans offering new exams. At the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs, only one of 21 medical professionals making diagnoses was a qualified specialist, according to the Military Times. As a result, hundreds of veterans there may have been examined by unqualified personnel.

The question still remains whether or not sending a letter is a sufficient response to this problem. Other outreach programs from Veterans Affairs include those dealing with homeless veterans and mental illness. The homelessness outreach includes several posters, brochures, and videos.

Another lasting effect of TBI is the risk of suicide after the fact. TBI can cause neurobehavioral extremes and depression. A significant number of TBI sufferers develop depression whether it be because of the physical changes in the brain, genetics, or changing social roles. Benefits may be important to receiving treatment for mental challenges veterans may face.

One of the veterans who did not receive benefits he earned was Nate Anderson, according to KARE 11. His vehicle ran into some homemade explosive devices in Afghanistan. Anderson does not remember the moments after the blast. However, his examination for TBI was not done by a specialist. His benefits came seven years too late when he received one of the letters notifying him his diagnosis was made by an unqualified professional. He is finally now getting treatment for his TBI and benefits.

VA officials had to answer questions from Congress Wednesday about why some 24,000 veterans were not receiving benefits from their TBIs, according to KARE 11. Congress was asking whether or not sending the letters out would be sufficient outreach.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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